Yongtu’s two-day meeting with trade experts, which starts next Monday (24 January), will coincide with a visit by Chinese Vice Premier Wu Bangguo on Tuesday (25 January) for wider-ranging talks on economic cooperation.Long’s visit is seen as a reassuring sign that China remains committed to joining the WTO’s rules-based system despite continuing domestic fears that it will mean increased competition for national enterprises. Concern that Beijing was losing interest in the WTO grew late last year after Chinese negotiators failed to give a quick response to the EU’s market-opening demands, which were handed over to Chinese Foreign Trade Minister Shi Guangsheng by Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy at the ill-fated WTO meeting in Seattle in December.China’s silence prompted Lamy to delay a planned visit to Beijing to attend a summit with Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji on 21 December, leaving Commission President Romano Prodi and External Trade Commissioner Chris Patten to make the trip without him. Long should not, however, expect an easy ride at next week’s talks, not least because, with the prospects of a new global-trade round looking bleak post-Seattle, the pressure to get China into the WTO by a certain deadline has eased.In addition, while the EU remains firmly convinced that Chinese membership of the WTO is important to underpin economic reform, Commission officials are adamant that they will not be pushed into accepting an unsatisfactory deal. “We are in no rush to complete an agreement with China,” Patten said recently, adding that the Union was determined not to “sacrifice substance for speed”.Trade officials add that while progress is expected in talks between Long and Commission Director General Hans-Friedrich Beseler, they are not looking to “finalise negotiations” at this stage. They say all the two sides have done for months is “exchange negotiating positions” and there has been no “substantive” discussion. As a result, the talks now getting under way could run for weeks, if not months.The EU has submitted a list of demands which goes beyond the market-opening measures included in the US-China agreement signed last November.Responding to the needs of European exporters, the Commission wants a lowering of Chinese tariffs in areas such as textiles, ceramics and spirits. In the services sector, it has called on China to allow foreign life insurance companies to take a 100% stake in joint ventures instead of the 50% secured by the US in its deal.In mobile telephony, where European companies are top global players, the Union is also asking for full equity participation in companies. China may be in more of a hurry to clinch a WTO deal with the EU, believing that this would make it easier to persuade a currently reluctant US Congress to support Beijing’s membership bid. But the Commission is unlikely to let such concerns influence its strategy.