China and Mexico inched closer on Tuesday to resolve differences blocking China's long-awaited entry to the World Trade Organization.
Mexican Trade Minister Herminio Blanco said his talks with Chinese Foreign Trade Minister Shi Guangsheng, on the sidelines of an APEC meeting in Brunei, had brought agreement nearer.
"It was a very productive meeting. We are discussing different ideas and will continue to discuss these in the hours to come," Blanco told reporters after he emerged from the 90-minute meeting.
Mexico is the only member of the Geneva-based WTO with which China has not completed bilateral talks to enable its long-sought accession to the global trade body.
The sole issue of anti-dumping duties was standing in the way of agreement, the Mexican minister said on the margins of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.
Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo are among Pacific-rim leaders arriving in Brunei Tuesday for a two-day APEC summit starting Wednesday.
Asked whether the two presidents could announce a deal in Brunei, Blanco said: "Let's first see what will be the result of the discussions in the hours to come."
"We hope that through the work of the vice ministers and through all the meetings in the hours and days to come, we can advance."
A Chinese trade official said "the meetings continue," but declined to comment further.
Blanco told Shi as they entered the meeting that Mexico was "very happy with the protocol you have sent us."
The draft protocol from China has formed the basis of informal meetings between Chinese and Mexican vice ministers in Brunei since Friday.
Mexico's Vice Trade Minister Luis de la Calle said before the meeting began: "We are going to try to sign (an agreement) before the end of the year."
China's head WTO negotiator, Long Yongtu, said in Geneva last week that "major progress" had been achieved towards China's accession in talks by a WTO working party.
China must secure a bilateral agreement with Mexico and a "multilateral accession protocol" with the working party, to ensure that countries that did not negotiate bilateral deals with it enjoy the same trade concessions.
The working party will meet again from December 5 to 8.
Outstanding areas for agreement on the terms of China's WTO membership include farming and industrial policy.
China clinched a critical bilateral WTO agreement with the United States a year ago, and with the European Union last month.
A senior US official attending the APEC forum said:"We certainly have high hopes that China can accede to WTO very soon."
"We'd be very pleased if it could happen within te next couple of months," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
(China Daily 11/14/2000)