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OCTOBER 13, 2000 VOL. 26 NO. 40 | SEARCH ASIAWEEK

Newsmakers
Passages:

How's this for Diplo-Speak?
"The required breakthroughs are only possible through a fundamental re-examination of negotiating positions." The speaker is Pierre-Louis Girard, the Swiss official who chaired the talks between China and the World Trade Organization over Beijing's entry into the WTO. Need a translation? Basically, Girard said let's bring in the big boys because we're so far apart we need adult supervision. And how's this for a blunt retort, or maybe the sound of a man in denial: "Negotiations are on track. I do not agree with reports that China's negotiations are in stalemate." That's Girard's counterpart Long Yongtu, China's top WTO negotiator, who added that he thought the WTO (and the European Union) are demanding too many concessions. "I don't think this is fair," he added. Both men were speaking after another round of talks to finally get China into the trade organization failed. So after 14 years, what's the problem? The Chinese say they won't dole out more market-access licenses to insurance companies from the U.S., the E.U. and Japan until there is progress at the Geneva talks. American insurers say they were promised that they could start operating in China as part of the deal when China signed its bilateral WTO-entry agreement with the U.S. Likewise the Japanese and ditto the Europeans, who complain that only two of seven insurance projects they negotiated are in place, with no sign of any further movement. Some pundits predict China's WTO entry no earlier than April of next year. What else could possibly go wrong? Five Latin American WTO members — Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama — still have to sign their bilateral agreements with China before it enters the Pearly Gates of WTO heaven. To make matters worse, four of those Latin American countries don't have diplomatic relations with China.

A grand gesture, partially fulfilled
"We are taking full responsibility. We take the blame for everything. We are answerable for everything that was done," Philippine Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado told the Philippine Inquirer in a telephone interview. That was neither the royal nor editorial "we" Mercado was using. He included Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Angelo Reyes when he took the heat for the airforce's bombing in Jolo island that started on Sept. 16. The tactic — army brass claimed it was their best way of rescuing 17 hostages held by the Abu Sayyaf Muslim guerrillas — managed to cause the release of 12 Filipino Christian evangelists, but seems to have only discomfited the main target, the men who held them. But the aerial attacks are taking a growing toll on the civilians caught beneath the Vietnam-era, American-made OV-10 bombers searching out likely targets. What was planned as a six-day all-out assault has evolved into a protracted siege from the air with some ground action too. In Manila the political bickering and second-guessing tailed off with the rescue of the group of 12, but should resume quickly and last until the remaining five are freed. An exultant President Joseph Estrada again predicts the fighting will be over in a week.

September Clinton, October Putin
So Indian PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee must have reminded himself when he greeted Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Oct. 2 welcoming state dinner. Does it get any better? Putin was in New Delhi for a three-day visit to put the finishing touches on the "Strategic Partnership" agreement to revive and redefine their countries' bilateral relationship, one that lost its way since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The ailing Vajpayee was back from a lengthy U.S. trip in September, one that reinvigorated once wary Indo-American ties. Not to be outdone, Putin brought a 70-person delegation with him to oversee the signing of more than ten agreements covering everything from enhanced defense cooperation to cultural exchanges.

Passage
DIED Pierre Elliott Trudeau, 80, Canada's prime minister from 1968-79 and 1980-84, of cancer in Montreal, on Sept. 28. Trudeau, a lover of Asia and resistant to the "Americanization" of his homeland, nettled his neighbor to the south by extending diplomatic recognition to China in 1971, eight years before the Americans finally did. Trudeau's act paved the way for China's admission to the U.N. and hastened the rapprochement between Beijing and Washington.

SENTENCED Wong Yue, 73, an illiterate widow and retired shoe seller, to six months in prison in Singapore, on Sept. 28. Wong was given the minimum sentence for allowfive Indonesian workers whose work permits had expired to use her apartment. Two years earlier she was warned not to harbor overstayers after four China nationals were found living in her premises.

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