Prime Minister Zhu Rongji has tried to break the deadlock with the European Union over the mainland's entry into the World Trade Organisation, urging the EU to reach an early settlement. Speaking to visiting Danish Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, Mr Zhu was quoted by Xinhua as saying yesterday that negotiations had reached the 'final stage'. 'We hope to finish all the negotiations and relevant procedures as soon as possible, and we would not like to see the EU being the last to reach an agreement with China in this regard,' he said. His remarks came after the EU had adopted a tough stand in its demands for market access from Beijing, leading to the failure of three earlier rounds of talks. The EU is seeking a better deal from the mainland than the United States - particularly in the telecommunications and financial sectors. Beijing's bottom line, however, is that the concessions it granted to the US are the maximum it can offer. A new round of talks is scheduled to resume in Beijing next week between the mainland's Foreign Trade Minister Shi Guangsheng and EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy. The 15-nation bloc EU is the biggest trading power that has yet to conclude a deal with Beijing on its bid to join the world trade body after the landmark bilateral trade agreement between the United States and the mainland last November. Mr Zhu's comments also come two weeks ahead of when the US Congress is expected to vote on whether to normalise trade with the mainland. The US granting of permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) status to Beijing would end the present system of an annual vote and also ensure mainland goods the same low-tariff access to US markets as products from most other nations. If approved, the agreement would open the way for the mainland to join the WTO. Shanghai Academy for Social Sciences economist Wang Lingyi said it was difficult to predict the outcome of both the Sino-EU talks and approval of PNTR status amid the politics involved. Mr Zhu is expected to step up his efforts to urge an early conclusion of the Sino-EU talks during a joint dinner tomorrow in Shanghai, to be attended by US Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky. Ms Barshefsky - a keynote speaker at the CLSA Investors' Forum starting tomorrow - is expected to drum up support for the Clinton administration to help the passage of PNTR status. Approval of the agreement is the US President's top legislative priority for his final year in office. The EU was the mainland's third-largest trading partner last year. Two-way trade volume hit US$55.7 billion, up 14 per cent from the previous year. The mainland was the fourth-largest trading partner of the EU.