Sino-American relations are heading for a period of uncertainty over the next couple of years because of mutual suspicion, an expert predicted yesterday. 'I am nervous about the future,' said Professor Michel Oksenberg, senior fellow at Stanford University's Asia-Pacific Research Centre. Several thorny issues had still not been fully addressed by both countries during the second term of the Clinton administration after bilateral relations had improved markedly over the first term, the professor told an American Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Hong Kong. The United States' trade deficit with China had continued to climb at an alarming rate and no progress was in sight concerning China's entry to the World Trade Organisation. The rising trade deficit would make relations vulnerable during a presidential election in the US, said Professor Oksenberg. It appeared China was incapable of meeting the requirements of entering the world trade body in present circumstances, he added. Despite Washington's talk of forming a strategic partnership with China, Beijing continued to feel jittery over the review of defence guidelines between US and Japan. The Chinese Government was worried the review was indicative of US interference in the region and the possible involvement of Japan in the Taiwan issue. 'It is a case of mutual suspicion,' said Professor Oksenberg. Human rights and Tibet would continue as obstacles hindering the development of better relations and Taiwan remained a ticking time bomb. Both sides would be constrained by domestic politics in their dealing with the issues, with limited room for manoeuvre, he said. He was referring to the US presidential election in 2000 and Beijing having to grapple with a number of economic and social issues, including sustaining a high growth rate and maintaining social stability.