The mainland is poised to launch an infrastructure programme stretching from transport to high-technology to help it achieve 8 per cent growth this year and counteract any effects of the East Asian crisis, Vice-Premier Li Lanqing said yesterday. Although Mr Li did not mention any figure, observers believe the programme may run into tens of billions of dollars. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Mr Li said although the mainland had not been directly affected by the crisis, economic reforms, particularly in the financial system, would be speeded up. He also reiterated Beijing's policy of not devaluing the yuan, and of applying more favourable measures this year for imports of equipment by foreign investors. Mr Li said: 'We are going to increase investment in priority sectors. These include irrigation and water supply facilities and other agricultural infrastructure, construction of railways, highways and transport facilities in both urban and rural areas, environmental protection projects, development of hi-tech industries, technological upgrading of enterprises, housing-sector development and the development of mid-western areas. 'The rise in investment will no doubt generate an expansion in employment and consumer demand.' Mr Li said mainland exports would become more competitive because the export structure would be developed and costs reduced 'through various kinds of hard work'. He said: 'Even if the growth rate of our exports might be somewhat dented, we would maintain the stability of the exchange rate of the yuan. This is not only in our interest, but also a contribution to the recovery of stability and confidence in the Asian currency markets.' Mr Li yesterday held talks with the director-general of the World Trade Organisation, Renato Ruggiero. The regional financial markets crisis has heightened the importance of China's entry into the WTO, and Mr Ruggiero believes the turmoil will add impetus to China's 11-year quest for accession. A successful WTO entry is seen as key to helping restore stability in the region. Mr Ruggiero said the mainland would need to improve on its offer of liberalising services. He also wants to see more transparency in the rules and regulations governing trade. He made specific mention of telecommunications services, which are still a no-go area for foreign companies wishing to establish their own fixed-line networks. Mr Ruggiero also said the mainland needed to improve on its offer of distribution rights, and emphasised the importance of liberalising the financial services markets. China is understood to favour a step-by-step approach to liberalisation. Both men are reportedly keen to see China in the WTO within a reasonable time-frame, although no deadline has been specified.