The European Union pushed China on human rights and trade yesterday, but without much apparent success. Finland's Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen, who led the EU delegation, voiced concern at the slowness with which China was moving to a 'more open society, based on the rule of law of internationally recognised human rights standards'. The delegation held detailed discussions and had lunch with Premier Zhu Rongji at the Great Hall of the People, and met President Jiang Zemin. Mr Zhu was apparently vague about when the National People's Congress would ratify and begin to implement two United Nations human rights covenants. He emphasised China had its own interpretation of human rights and how to adapt them to its specific conditions. The EU was also rebuffed when its representatives urged China to end capital punishment and open a dialogue on Tibet with the Dalai Lama. The Chinese side said capital punishment was necessary to maintain social order. Mr Zhu reportedly gave a lengthy explanation about why the Falun Gong sect had been suppressed. Mr Lipponen said the openness with which the subjects were broached was a positive sign. Mr Zhu praised the EU for taking the path of dialogue instead of confrontation on human rights. He was keen to urge the Europeans to encourage more investment and trade, but China has yet to commit itself on the European negotiating position over the mainland's entry to the World Trade Organisation. European Commission President Romano Prodi said: 'We are ready to negotiate once they examine our requests. These are not difficult to meet and similar to what the Americans got.' The list of additional requirements from the EU was not long and included telecommunications, life insurance and some tariffs, he said. The agreement reached between China and the US in October covered 80 per cent of European concerns. 'It will be completed in good time but it is not in our hands,' said EU External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten. Talks might open in January. The China Business Times said the Europeans were seeking further access on vehicles, food, alcohol, cosmetics, banking, pharmaceuticals and ceramics. Shi Wei, an official at the State Commission for Restructuring the Economic System, said: 'It will not be that easy for the two sides to reach agreement but eventually they will come to a compromise because neither can afford not to have a deal.'