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China’s WTO Membership Sought

May 11, 1999

TOKYO (AP) _ Officials from the United States, the European Union, Japan and Canada expressed hope today that China will remain on track to join the World Trade Organization by the end of the year, despite its outrage over the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade.

There have been fears that China might walk away from WTO negotiations with the United States and other Western nations after Friday’s NATO attack on its embassy left three people dead.

President Clinton and other alliance leaders have apologized for the missile strike, which they called an accident.

The officials, who were meeting for trade talks that began today in Tokyo, said they would stress that China should not link its protest over the attack to its negotiations to join the WTO.

``I am hopeful that we can have a common position,″ said Sergio Marchi, Canada’s minister for international trade.

Raising the issue of the attack during the WTO negotiations would only bog them down, making completion by the end of the year unlikely, he said.

``To link it to the WTO is the beginning of the end,″ Marchi told reporters.

Efforts to admit China to the WTO have sped up since Premier Zhu Rongji offered sweeping concessions last month in Washington. But on Monday, Beijing reacted to the attack by severing talks with Washington on a host of issues, including human rights and arms control.

Officials also said Japan had made progress in resolving differences with China over issues such as trade in services. Negotiators are expected to agree on a statement calling for China’s quick entry into the WTO.

Also on the agenda are discussions about how to format a new round of world trade talks scheduled to start later this year or early next year in Seattle, Wash.

Europe and the United States remain split over how to conduct the talks, with the Europeans calling for broad negotiations on all issues and the Americans wanting to focus on one dispute at a time.

The Seattle talks will be the first extended multilateral trade negotiations since the Uruguay round that ended in 1994.

Update hourly