No WTO Deal For Zhu -- Yet

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WASHINGTON: They laughed. They spoke candidly. They broke bread in the East Room and listened to Yo-Yo Ma's cello over dessert. But Bill Clinton and Zhu Rongji couldn't wrap up the centerpiece of the Chinese premier's visit: membership for China in the World Trade Organization. But to TIME Beijing bureau chief Jaime Florcruz, traveling with Zhu, the "failure" was all part of the plan. "Turning the Chinese down now just sets up the U.S. side," he says. "Now Clinton can say that the U.S. didn't lower the bar or cave in, that it was the Chinese who made all the concessions. That will make it much easier for him to sell the deal to Congress in the fall."

That, and the list. When negotiations concluded, China had offered up a firm list of markets that would be thrown open to the West -- pending, of course, China's entry into the WTO. The last sticking points, says Florcruz, are largely protocol issues aimed at making sure that, once a member, China does exactly what it promised to do. Nailing down those important details in the coming months will allow Bill Clinton to look like the stickler on China that few in Congress believe him to be.