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Bush backs China's WTO entry despite standoff

George W. Bush
U.S. President Bush is an "advocate of China's entry into the WTO"  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. President George W. Bush has given his backing to China's entry into the World Trade Organisation, separating the issue from the confrontation between the U.S. and China over a downed spy plane.

While Bush repeated his request that China allow full access to a damaged EP-3E Aries II spy plane and its 24 crewmembers -- stranded on China's Hainan Island since a collision with a Chinese fighter jet at the weekend -- he moved to separate the spat from China's WTO accession.

George W. Bush says it's in US interests to open up the Chinese markets
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"I'm an advocate of China's entry into the WTO and I'm hopeful that the current situation ends quickly and our people come home,” Bush said.

Stumbling in a speech given in Washington on Thursday, the president said, "China is a strategic partner, I mean, strategic competitor but that doesn't mean we can't find areas in which we can partner and the economy is a place we can partner."

Hong Kong-based economist with the Bank of America, Frank Gong told CNN that he believed Bush was trying to contain the crisis, as he wants to maintain a good trade relationship.

The Bank of America's Frank Gong says if the standoff isn’t handled well China’s WTO entry is at risk
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"I think the question is whether he will be able to do so if this standoff lasts beyond another two or three days," Gong said.

"The danger is both hard liners in China and the U.S. make it hard for any kind of compromise, and if that is the case then even the trade issues can be entangled, so the trade relationship may also be hurt."

In April this year in Geneva, China's accession into the WTO is up for discussion and one of the main sticking points has been agricultural subsidies. China wants to be classified as a developing nation, which would allow it to keep farm subsidies for ten years after WTO membership.

While Bush backs China's WTO entry, he is not climbing down on the subsidy issue.

He told the American Society of Newspaper Editors Annual Convention, "China ought to be a trading partner of ours. I think it is in our economic interests to open up the Chinese markets to U.S. products, to U.S. agricultural products.”

Frank Gong said the spy plane issue was a far bigger problem. "I think this whole standoff is a new factor here, that can not be underestimated," he said.

"If they do not handle this thing well I think it is really questionable whether China can join the WTO by the end of the year. "

Lawmakers target China's trade status
April 5, 2001
Spy plane standoff put China's WTO entry at risk
April 4, 2001
New China trade entry talks soon, says report
March 25, 2001

The White House

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