Europe's senior trade official, Sir Leon Brittan, says there could be a breakthrough in the final stages of negotiations for the mainland's much-coveted accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) this year. 'I believe that if the necessary political momentum is maintained, there is no reason why 1998 should not witness a breakthrough in the final stages of the talks,' he said. Beijing must resist defensive measures in the face of the economic crisis, he said. Sir Leon, who is vice-president of the European Commission, said he was looking for 'concrete offers' at the next round of the mainland's WTO entry negotiations, and in particular, progress in the mainland's guarded services sector. He praised the mainland on its progress so far, but said it must not be distracted into taking protectionist action by the financial crisis in Asia and the spate of currency depreciations 'Protectionism or defensive reaction to the Asia market crisis, while it might have some political attraction, only makes matters worse,' he said. Such action not only would prompt an immediate slowdown in foreign direct investment in the mainland, but also would jeopardise its WTO entry. Speaking at a World Economic Forum panel shared by mainland Vice-Premier Li Lanqing, he said the European Union was willing to help the mainland and had no interest in keeping it out.