China's 15-year bid to enter the World Trade Organisation grew more tortuous yesterday with two officials in the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Co-operation (Moftec) and the WTO's next director-general seemingly at odds over the likely accession date. 'The negotiating process has come to a final stage,' said China's WTO negotiating team chief representative Long Yongtu, who is also a Moftec vice-minister. But back in Beijing Mr Long's boss, Moftec Minister Shi Guangsheng, was quoted in yesterday's China Business Times as saying accession may not come until as late as October or November. Stirring things up even further, Supachai Panitchpakdi, who takes over as WTO director-general in September next year, told a British Chamber of Commerce lunch in Hong Kong that he remained confident China would join the world body in the first half of this year - possibly as soon as next month. 'I have hope - and let's hope - that by [March] China could join and be ready to become a full participant at the next round of trade negotiations,' Mr Supachai said. Last week in Hong Kong, European Union Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy also said China's WTO accession agreement could be completed next month. According to the China Business Times, Mr Shi made his entry prediction at an internal Moftec seminar where he characterised recent reports that China's accession to the WTO could be wrapped up by June as 'inaccurate'. China reportedly needs time to draft new laws and revise existing ones in line with WTO requirements. Mr Long did not venture a date for China's entry into the WTO, but implied it would be sooner rather than later. 'I believe that what month and what day China enters the WTO is not important. What is important is that China's entry is inevitable, and that the framework is already in place,' he said. He said outstanding issues should be easily resolved. Last week WTO Director-General Mike Moore said China's insistence that it be treated as a developing country with regards to agriculture provisions had delayed talks. Mr Long made his remarks in an address to the Boao Forum for Asia, a regional talking-shop whose first annual meeting convened yesterday in Hainan province. China has completed bilateral accession agreements with all WTO-member countries except Mexico. Those agreements must be collated into a single accession document at WTO headquarters in Geneva.