Los Angeles Times
By cementing a deal with Europe, China has cleared away the largest remaining hurdle in its bid to join the World Trade Organization and put the Asian nation within reach of membership in the powerful trade group by the end of the year, officials said Thursday.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue announced in Beijing late Wednesday that China and the European Union had resolved their disputes over foreign access to China’s lucrative insurance and retail markets. The details were not released.
EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy said Thursday the "political will" of the two governments cleared the way for China to join the WTO "in the coming months." A WTO working committee on China is slated to meet in Geneva June 28-July 4 to hammer out final details. "It’ll be close," said David Bachman, a China economic specialist at the University of Washington. "But it really is a question of time and not fundamental issues."
Tensions between the United States and China over the spy-plane incident and U.S. weapons sales to Taiwan derailed WTO negotiations in the early months of the Bush administration.
But in recent months, the United States and other leading WTO members launched a last-minute push with the hope of finalizing China’s membership by November.
That would give the beleaguered WTO a boost after its disastrous 1999 meltdown in Seattle and allow China to participate if a new round of trade liberalization talks are launched.
Meeting a November deadline won’t be easy, since China still has to wrap up bilateral deals with five Latin American countries including Mexico. Those countries are seeking ways to protect their producers from a deluge of low-cost Chinese goods once that nation joins the WTO.