Beijing is expected to open its market further as a gift to the United States from Premier Zhu Rongji when he visits in April and a move aimed at boosting the chances of joining the World Trade Organisation (WTO). In addition to the two pilot cities, Shanghai and Shenzhen, foreign trading companies will be allowed to open joint ventures with their counterparts in Beijing, Tianjin, Chongqing, Wuhan, Zhengzhou, Lanzhou, Shantou, Xiamen and Zhuhai, sources said. Moreover, businesses in the service industry, such as retailers, will be able to set up joint ventures in all provincial capitals, administrative cities and a few central cities. Restrictions on wholesale and secondary telecommunications businesses may also be lifted, sources said. Chinese and American diplomats are making final preparations for Mr Zhu's first visit to the US as Premier, expected to take place in April. Experts said the new relaxation was also aimed at boosting China's chance of joining the world trade body. China's top negotiator on WTO membership, Long Yongtu, recently said reports that Beijing had slowed efforts to join the global body were a misunderstanding. He said Beijing could only join the WTO on two conditions - if it agreed to abide by all rules set by the WTO and further open its market. He said China may remove its import licence controls or quotas on about 300 commodities by 2005. Beijing recently lowered tariffs on 1,014 commodities in an attempt to crack down on smuggling. The mainland's soaring trade surplus with the US had become a major stumbling block to its WTO negotiations, experts said. Last year, China was said to have exported to the US US$20 billion (HK$155 billion) worth of goods more than it imported.