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Patten: Delay in securing China entry is frustrating
European Union policy chief Chris Patten said on Monday that completing China's entry into the World Trade Organisation -- after "frustrating" delays -- was the EU's top priority as it boosted ties with the trading giant.
"The finalisation of China's WTO accession is, of course, the most immediate aim," Patten said in Beijing at the start of a three-day visit to China for political and economic talks.
"After the excitement surrounding the deals on terms of accession between China and the European Union as well as the United States, the delay in securing formal entry is frustrating," he told an EU Chamber of Commerce lunch.
Patten, the European Commissioner for External Affairs, said he did not know exactly what was holding up China's WTO accession after key bilateral deals were struck with the United States in November 1999 and with the EU a year ago.
He said that on the EU side, there were outstanding technical issues and disputes over life insurance and fertiliser quotas.
Patten said he thought US-China hurdles were "pretty limited" and could be resolved at or before a gathering of Asia-Pacific leaders in Shanghai in October.
"With political will ... it should be possible to resolve things very swiftly indeed," he said.
"My judgment is the sooner China is in (the WTO) the better, and I think that is still the judgment of Chinese senior officials," he said.
"EXPLOSIVE TRADE DEFICIT"
Patten, who sparred bitterly with Beijing as the last British governor of Hong Kong before the it returned to Chinese mainland in 1997, was due to meet Foreign Trade Minister Shi Guangsheng during the May 21-23 visit.
He told the European business representatives that Brussels was keen to remove Chinese trade barriers behind the EU's "explosive trade deficit" with China, which hit 44.4 billion euros ($50.49 billion) last year.
"There's a feeling that European Union exporters to China would do much better were it not for a string of informal and formal barriers to trade," Patten said.
He said that after China's entry into the trade group, the EU would "monitor closely whether China is correctly implementing her WTO commitments" and support compliance with WTO-related aid projects in financial reform and protection of intellectual property rights.
While not all trade troubles with China would disappear with WTO entry, Chinese entry into the body which enforces world trade rules was the best way to deal with disputes and integrate China into a rules-based international economy, Patten said.
"If that doesn't happen, then we are all in very deep trouble," he said.
POLITICS ON AGENDA
The EU announced a revised China strategy last week, calling for deeper political dialogue both on domestic Chinese issues such as human rights and on global problems such as illegal immigration, human trafficking and the environment.
Patten will oversee the launch this week of a programme designed to promote village self-governance and democratisation and give a speech at a legal reform seminar.
Patten will also attend the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) of foreign ministers from the 15 EU countries, the 10 Asean states, China, Japan and South Korea in Beijing on May 24 and 25.
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