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China Entry to WTO `Very Close'(2001.06.27)
China's long-awaited entry to the World Trade Organisation is now "very close", WTO Director-General Mike Moore said on Tuesday.

"In principle, we are just about there. I want it and everyone wants it," Moore said on the eve of new WTO talks on the issue.

His remarks followed the successful conclusion over the past two weeks of separate negotiations between China and the two top trading powers, the European Union and the United States.

Both had sought stronger commitments from Beijing on access to Chinese markets for insurance companies and trading firms, and on keeping down production subsidies to China's farmers.

Those agreements have been widely seen as clearing the way for completion of almost all detailed negotiations on the terms of Chinese admission to the 141-member body, nearly 15 years after it applied to join.

Mexico, which has yet to conclude its bilateral talks with Beijing, has said it will not block China's entry when the final documents come before the WTO's General Council for approval.

Chinese officials have voiced optimism that a week of talks on its application starting on Thursday will wrap up all major issues.

Moore indicated he also felt this was possible, but said it was still uncertain whether China could be in the body in time for a WTO ministerial meeting in Qatar from November 9-13.

Getting China in before Qatar was "technically possible, but very difficult," he said.

"There is still a lot of technical and legal work to be done," Moore added, referring to protocols that have to be compiled of all the agreements China has reached with its trading partners and the final admission agreement.

China has indicated it wants to be a member by November so it can be in at the start if the ministers from all WTO countries agree to launch a new global round of trade liberalisation negotiations.

"China has seen a tremendous benefit to its people (from trade and economic liberalisation).... It is a strong supporter of more open markets and a rules-based system," said Moore, a former New Zealand prime minister.

If China is not a member before Qatar, it would still be able to take part as an observer, and then come in as a full member once the accession process is completed.

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