U.S., China To Talk Trade Again

The United States and China have scheduled their first trade talks in four months, signaling a thaw in the countries' recent chilly relations.

The technical-level discussions will be held next week, probably in Beijing, in advance of a meeting between President Clinton and Chinese President Jiang Zemin in New Zealand.

Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Richard Fisher said Thursday the technical-level meeting will be a Â"stock-takingÂ" of where the two countries stand on negotiations to bring China into the World Trade Organization.

The last trade talks were held in late April, shortly before the accidental NATO bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, which dealt a severe setback to relations. The two countries had been close to an agreement at the time of the bombing.

In Skaneateles, N.Y., where Clinton is vacationing, spokesman Jake Siewert said the Chinese Â"have indicated that they would like to get back to the table, and we're prepared to send some technical level of negotiatorsÂ" ahead of the 21-country Asia-Pacific summit in New Zealand.

Membership in the WTO would require China to lower trade barriers and presumably lead to greatly increased access for U.S. products in Chinese markets.

At the time of the Washington visit of Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji in April, China made a number of market-opening concessions in a bid to reach agreement on WTO membership.

But Clinton, bowing to pressure from Congress, refused to approve a deal. He said China had to do more to protect U.S. steel and textile companies and open its market to American financial services.

The bombing took place a month after Zhu's visit. In addition to suspending trade talks, China broke off military contacts and talks on human rights and security and arms control issues with the United States.

There have been other snags in the relationship, including Republican outcries over financial contributions to Clinton's re-election campaign by Chinese interests and a bipartisan House report documenting alleged Chinese espionage at U.S. nuclear labs.

Written by George Gedda
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