China yesterday ridiculed US efforts to punish renegade states with trade sanctions, and boasted of its trade prospects with Iraq. A Chinese trade mission has just returned from Iraq and Business Weekly said the nation could again become China's most important trade partner in the Middle East. Chinese companies have discussed projects for joint oil exploration. Others are planning to sell machinery, building materials and telecommunications equipment as well as food, medicine and daily necessities. China is waiting for the lifting of sanctions to resume the despatch of labourers to help reconstruction. The mission follows the US$2 billion (HK$15.45 billion) oil-for-food deal agreed by the United Nations in May. Outlook weekly magazine said the US had been left standing alone and condemned after approving the D'Amato Act, which is aimed at penalising Iran and Libya for funding terrorism. In an article called 'From Serial Sanctions to Serial Protests', the magazine said the US had brandished its stick of sanctions and was repeatedly rebuffed for the first time in its post-war history. America was, it said, practising interventionism to make itself a dictator of international political and economic affairs on the pretext of anti-terrorism. The article took pleasure in Washington's discomfort over its Western allies' reluctance to co-operate with efforts to punish companies in third countries which do business with Iran, Libya or Cuba.