United States trade negotiator Charlene Barshefsky, sent to Beijing amid fears of Chinese backtracking on the World Trade Organisation accession process, said yesterday she had been assured by Premier Zhu Rongji that China would live up to its promises on the historic trade deal. Ms Barshefsky, who like Mr Zhu has much political capital invested in the agreement on China's entry into the WTO, was optimistic that differences could be ironed out, allowing Beijing to join the trade body this year. 'I am not persuaded there is an issue of cold feet here,' she said after meetings with Mr Zhu and Trade Minister Shi Guangsheng. 'China is not and will not back away from its bilateral commitments with the US and other trade partners,' she said the premier had assured her. 'We and a number of our trading partners still envision that China's working part requirements will be completed this year and it will be a member of the WTO,' she said. 'But the speed with which this will be done will depend for a large part on China,' said Ms Barshefsky. She was sent to Beijing by an anxious President Bill Clinton who wants to see China join the WTO before the end of his term in office in January. The US trade negotiator, who was driven straight to the talks from the airport after arriving in Beijing yesterday morning, was looking for top-level political support to clear the snags that have emerged on a number of issues linked to the already signed accord. 'I thought the meetings we had were good,' she said. Mr Zhu was smiling as he left the talks on his way to a visit to Japan. China, which has been pursuing the WTO and its predecessor organisation for 14 years, reached an accord with the US in November last year and the European Union in May. After a bruising battle with Congress, Mr Clinton signed into law this week a bill granting China permanent normal trade status, a key component of the bilateral accord on WTO. That gives China the low tariff treatment enjoyed by most other US trading partners while avoiding the annual review of its trade status by Congress. Ms Barshefsky described the final hurdles as 'nothing insurmountable' and said they included agricultural quotas, import and export trading rights for foreign firms and Chinese product standards. She declined to go into greater detail on the issues, saying only: 'Some are technical, some are likely political.' Other officials described the obstacles as a 'mixed bag' of large and small issues. China must still complete multilateral procedures for implementation of the accords and reach a bilateral agreement with Mexico before it can finally take its place in the world trade body. Mexico is concerned that China, once it gains entry to the WTO, will become an even greater threat to its own considerable exports to the US market. EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy is scheduled to visit Beijing later this month to discuss WTO issues with Chinese officials. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao echoed the theme that China had not been backtracking and still wanted to become a member this year. 'The focus of WTO work has shifted from bilateral negotiations to multilateral negotiations,' he said.