- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2001

GENEVA (AP) Negotiators still shocked by images of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington decided yesterday to postpone a decision on admitting China to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
"Such a big thing happened. This kind of thing compared with that kind of thing we have to reschedule," said Chinese chief negotiator Long Yongtu.
WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell said there would be further informal meetings to resolve final differences over China's admittance. A formal session would be held Monday.
The decision means that a meeting planned for today to admit Taiwan will also be put off until next week. It was agreed in 1992 that Taiwan could not become a member ahead of China.
The U.S. Mission to international organizations in Geneva remained open Wednesday with a skeleton staff. "We aren't going to be very active today because of the circumstances," a somber U.S. official said.
Diplomats originally had a self-imposed deadline of yesterday for completing works on the terms of China's membership, but the attacks made it difficult for U.S. negotiators to get guidance from Washington.
Earlier Wednesday, the WTO announced that it was postponing meetings planned for later in the day and today to study U.S. policies on international trade. The meetings were unrelated to the China talks but had been scheduled for almost a year.
Clearance by WTO members would open the way for formal approval of China at a November meeting of WTO trade ministers in Doha, Qatar. China could then become a full member early next year.
If China's membership goes through next week, the WTO also hopes to clear Taiwan for membership.
Approval on China depends partly on settlement of a disagreement between the United States and the European Union.
American International Group, which has operated in China since 1994, wants assurances that it can continue to expand its operation there without having to find Chinese partners, unlike new companies joining the life insurance market there, which under the membership agreement must be 50 percent Chinese-owned.
European insurance companies, which operate as joint ventures with Chinese partners, insist that AIG must play by the same rules as they do. The European Union says it already has a guarantee from Beijing that all companies, including AIG, will have to respect the 50 percent rule in all future ventures.


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