Trade pact lays foundation for more economic changes

The mainland's eventual accession to the World Trade Organisation will substantially increase the chance of economic reforms there, according to Institute of International Economics director Fred Bergsten.

The bilateral agreement with the United States would provide a 'safe foundation' for the new century and for the mainland's emergence as a superpower, he said at the Asia Society in Hong Kong.

He also described the deal as 'extremely good news for Hong Kong'.

Mr Bergsten believed the deal - and the mainland's subsequent membership of WTO - would be approved by a com fortable majority in the US Congress, despite continued resistance from some members on grounds ranging from spying allegations to human rights violations on the mainland.

However, Mr Bergsten believed most members of Congress now realised the implications of rejecting Beijing's application to join the group.

'The most compelling argument is that if the US does not approve . . . the US would in future be discriminated against in the Chinese market,' he said.