Mutual shipping issues will be discussed by United States and Chinese officials and shipping line representatives in Beijing this week. Representatives of American President Lines, Sea-Land Service, Cosco and Sinotrans are expected to attend the meeting. The last official gathering involving China and the United States was held in April 1995. Sea-Land Service vice-president for law and regulatory affairs Stuart Breidbart said there had not been any formal consultation on shipping issues since the 1995 talks. 'For us, the real principle of these talks is that of reciprocity,' Mr Breidbart said. Chinese companies, particularly Cosco and Sinotrans, had virtually no restrictions imposed on them in the United States, Mr Breidbart said. 'What we seek is an arrangement of mutual respect in that American companies like Sea-Land are able to do in China everything that Chinese companies are able to do in the US. 'We welcome them having access to the US market, but we expect to have the same full access without artificial restrictions in China,' Mr Breidbart said. US carriers, for example, require prior approval for all vessels to operate at Chinese ports. The US lines must submit a business plan and if any changes are made to the scheduled proposals, including the names of the vessels involved in the rotations, the plan would have to be re-submitted. 'This is a time-consuming process and it is one that results in significant delays,' Mr Breidbart said. Chinese carriers, however, do not face any requirements in the US, he said, adding that they merely had to give authorities notice of their operational plans to work freely. 'The overall principle that is important is that Chinese carriers do not face any comparable requirements in the United States,' Mr Breidbart said. Cosco was allowed to have offices wherever it chose in the United States and did not require approvals, Mr Breidbart said. Sea-Land, which operated through its wholly owned subsidiary Sea-Land Service China in China, had sought to open additional offices and had been restricted in doing so because of artificial requirements imposed by the Ministry of Communications, he said. Trucking was another example. In China, Sea-Land could operate trucking services through joint ventures, while Chinese carriers offered similar services in the US without having to form joint ventures. Mr Breidbart said Cosco and Sinotrans were operating some intermodal services in the US. 'Whether they are taking advantage of that right to do it themselves or using that right to regulate a competitive arrangement with someone else is really not what matters,' he said. What mattered, he said, was that they had the right to do it in the United States, but that US companies were restricted from engaging in similar activities in China. Mr Breidbart said that he was optimistic that these issues would be settled amicably and that the Chinese would accept the principle of mutual respect and reciprocity.