HONG KONG (B)--The U.S. has proposed high-level talks with China in an effort to resolve differences that threaten to delay Beijing's planned membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO), Sept. 28 Financial Times reported. The paper said that Charlene Barshefsky, the top U.S. trade representative, has requested a meeting with Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji, a meeting which is intended to help avert a stalemate in talks in Geneva about China's WTO accession, the paper said.

The FT says that this was the first official U.S. acknowledgment that a serious diplomatic blockage has developed in what was supposed to be the final run-up to Beijing's entry to the WTO after 14 years of negotiations.

China had hoped to be able to join the world's premier trade organization this year. However, recent information has suggested that China's entry will be delayed until next year.

"Every aspect is problematic," said an official attending the current talks leading up to a formal session due Thursday, adding: "This meeting is poisoned."

The huge list of problems will keep China's negotiating process incomplete for months to come, estimate trade diplomats.

"Anyone who thinks that China will join this year has been smoking something stronger than tobacco," said one official close to the talks.

Contradicting widely expressed political expectations that the process could be complete by late 2000, a second diplomat said: "Accession by the end of next year (2001) is looking tight."

According to the FT report, the talks have stalled on a range of basic issues. These are: China's willingness to guarantee foreign companies the right to trade freely on its market, to enforce intellectual property rights and to create mechanisms for independent judicial review.

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