Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen and US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright yesterday hailed positive momentum in bilateral ties, but their two-hour meeting produced little immediate achievement beyond an agreement on navy port calls to Hong Kong. 'Although there are some differences between China and the United States, they are far outnumbered by our common views,' Mr Qian said. Ms Albright, describing 1997 as 'a pivotal year' for Sino-US relations, said: 'For both America and China, the benefits of our dialogue are tangible and growing. 'We're not yet where we want to be, but the direction in which we must go is clear.' The lack of practical progress in key areas of dispute was not surprising, given that Mr Qian's visit had been arranged for several months and was designed to be just one building block in the overall bid to ease tensions between Beijing and Washington. US State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said the 'good and constructive meeting' was marked by an agreement setting the terms for US Navy port calls in Hong Kong after July 1. Mr Qian and Ms Albright were optimistic about a deal this year on China's admission to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Also discussed was the agenda for November's summit in Washington between Chinese President Jiang Zemin and his US counterpart Bill Clinton. However, Mr Burns later tempered expectations of a WTO accord being struck by the summit, saying: 'I'm not sure when it can get done.' Ms Albright stressed a need for China to further open its markets to American goods and reduce the trade deficit between the countries. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Shen Guofang said Mr Qian told Ms Albright that China would continue to expand its markets, especially in buying US aircraft and other hi-tech items. Ms Albright again pressed Beijing for 'concrete and meaningful steps' in major areas of contention such as human rights, arms exports and the importance of preserving autonomy and basic freedoms in Hong Kong after the handover, said Mr Burns. The topic of arms proliferation took up most of the meeting, he added. However, no movement was reported on Washington's request for stricter control of China's hi-tech weapons exports, particularly to Iran and Pakistan. Mr Qian hit back, saying China wanted America to stop selling arms to Taiwan before more meaningful talks on weapons sales could begin. Ms Albright raised US concern on recent reports of an FBI probe into the Chinese embassy's alleged attempt to funnel money to Democratic Party election candidates. The most recent Washington Post report said officials had strongly hinted Beijing's senior leadership was aware of the plan, an accusation Mr Qian denied. Mr Qian was due to meet Defence Secretary William Cohen later yesterday and Mr Clinton today.