Taiwan will remain cautious in establishing direct links with the mainland once both achieve WTO accession, according to a Hong Kong- based Taiwan official. But the chances of Taipei seeking exemption from direct trade with Beijing were slim, said Jimmy Ng, director of the Far East Trade Centre, a representative organisation of Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs. Seeking special exemptions would not be desirable as it would cause what Mr Ng called 'disturbances'. He said: 'It is still too early to discuss exemption, as we still have to evaluate the situation. But the chance of including them [in World Trade Organisation clauses] is slim.' Mr Ng declined to say what the 'disturbances' might be. However, it is understood Taiwan preferred a more ambiguous treatment of its trade relations with China to allow for flexibility. The WTO's non-discrimination principles require members to treat each other equally, implying that Taiwan would have to remove current restrictions on cross-strait trade and establish direct links with the mainland. However, Mr Ng said the clauses which allowed individual members to impose restrictions in specific areas due to safety considerations would allow Taiwan to continue restricted links with the mainland. He said: 'For example, free entry of mainlanders to Taiwan is not possible due to the considerations of safety. 'There should be appropriate measures to deal with it.' Taiwan has signed bilateral agreements with most WTO members, including the United States. It still has to sign an agreement with Hong Kong. Mr Ng believed Taiwan's entry would be imminent once Beijing's path had been cleared. International sentiment was that Taiwan and China should join the WTO around the same time, he said. 'It will not favour us if we join too much later than the mainland,' said Mr Ng. An official at Taiwan's Board of Foreign Trade, under the Ministry of Economic Affairs, said there were only some technical procedures left before the island could join the WTO.