Chinese PM confident of early WTO membership
April 14, 1999
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji expressed confidence Beijing would gain WTO membership within the year and characterized his current trip as a "friendly" diplomatic mission that "bodes well for a continuing, progressive development in U.S.-China relations."
In a wide-ranging interview with CNN's Judy Woodruff on Tuesday, Zhu also acknowledged China has human-rights "deficiencies" and is working to improve those conditions -- but "we still have a long way to go."
He said he had spoken with Chinese President Jiang Zemin and top military leaders about allegations of Chinese espionage and they assured him Beijing did not steal U.S. nuclear secrets.
"If you want to investigate, we will be willing to assist," said Zhu, who was interviewed at the end of his six-city, nine-day diplomatic visit to the United States.
He also said he hoped to see NATO's airstrikes against Yugoslavia "come to a halt" soon and political discussions resume "because this would be the only way to achieve a true solution to this problem."
The premier said he has enjoyed his visit and "that all the Americans we've met were very friendly to China and I think that this bodes well for a continuing, progressive development in U.S.-China relations."
The White House said Zhu and President Bill Clinton spoke by phone earlier in the day and agreed to resume negotiations on China's possible entry into the World Trade Organization. Negotiators will renew discussions in Beijing later this month.
"I feel that our work is in the final stages now, so through our joint efforts we will be able to achieve an agreement," he said.
He said the business leaders he has met with have indicated such a deal might come within two to three months -- but the smiling premier said he would "rather see it in two to three weeks."
U.S. trade representative Charlene Barshefsky told a Senate hearing earlier that China gaining WTO accession would "open up new opportunities to American farm families, working people in businesses and ensure stronger protection for Americans against unfair trade."
Admission of human rights problems
Zhu's visit comes during tense U.S.-Sino relations. U.S. officials in recent months have accused China of stealing top-secret information from nuclear labs to enhance Beijing's nuclear arsenal -- allegations that have sparked intense CIA, FBI and Department of Energy investigations as well as heated Congressional hearings.
Washington also has pressed Beijing on human rights issues.
"We do acknowledge that we have deficiencies in the area of human rights, but at the same time we would also say that the people in China are enjoying a level of human rights that is unprecedented in our history," Zhu said.
"China is constantly improving its human rights situation but at the same time we still have a long way to go and we must continue to improve in this area," he said.
"You have to bear in mind that we do have the burden of 2,000 years of traditional thinking and this has affected the psychology of our people."
As for NATO's attacks on Yugoslavia, he said Beijing is "very concerned" about what is going on because "the Balkans are known to be the powder keg of Europe."
"Wars that have taken place in the Balkans are likely to be very dangerous," he said.
"What we are opposed to is intervention in the internal affairs or the sovereignty of a country and ethnic conflicts fall within the scope of internal affairs," he said.
Asked if Beijing was siding with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, he said, "We absolutely do not see this in ideological terms, nor are we aligning ourselves with any particular individual person, nor are we taking the stance because of some selfish interest of our own."
Correspondent Judy Woodruff contributed to this report.
Beijing, Washington to resume WTO negotiations
World Trade Organization
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