BRIEFS

BRIEFS

BARSHEFSKY ARRIVES IN

CHINA FOR TRADE TALKSBEIJING - U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky arrived in Beijing Wednesday for three days of talks with senior Chinese leaders.

During her visit, she is expected to assess China's bid for membership in the World Trade Organization. She will also help lay the groundwork for a scheduled June visit by President Clinton.

Mr. Clinton's trip will be the first by a U.S. president since the bloody 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square.

Shortly after Ms. Barshefsky departs, Secretary of State Madeline Albright will arrive for a whirlwind two-day stop. Ms. Barshefsky has been a regular visitor to China over the past few years, working with Beijing on WTO membership and hammering out differences in trade between the two nations.

EU VOWS WTO PANEL IF

ANTI-CUBA LAW ENFORCED

BRUSSELS - The European Union will start a new World Trade Organization dispute settlement panel over the U.S. Helms-Burton law as soon as the United States takes sanctions against EU companies for doing business with Cuba, a European Commission spokesman said Wednesday.

''If any EU company is sanctioned under any (U.S.) extraterritorial legislation, we will take action under the WTO,'' the spokesman said.

The WTO panel requested by the EU over the Helms-Burton law elapsed Tuesday. The EU had suspended the panel in April 1997 after guarantees by the United States that no European companies would be sanctioned.

Under WTO law, a suspended panel elapses automatically after 12 months.

MEAT CONSUMPTION

PLUNGES IN INDONESIA

MELBOURNE, Australia - Indonesian poultry and beef consumption has plunged by at least 50 percent due to rising prices and eroded purchasing power, traders and economists said.

One Indonesian economist said consumption of beef and poultry had been estimated at 7 kilograms per head per year before the economic crisis hit, but consumption rates for 1998 were down sharply due to high prices.

''It would probably be half that, and most people I talk to are not eating even eggs,'' the economist said.

Poultry is the main meat consumed in Indonesia, and according to government statistics it accounts for more than half of total Indonesian meat production.

BBV PUERTO RICO TO

ACQUIRE CHASE PORTFOLIO

MADRID - BBV Puerto Rico, part of Spain's Banco Bilbao Vizcaya group, will acquire Chase Manhattan Bank's loan portfolio and deposits in Puerto Rico under an agreement announced by BBV.

BBV did not disclose the value of the transaction, which will require regulators' approval. The newspaper Gaceta de los Negocios said it would be $50 million to $60 million, but gave no attribution for the figure.

BBV Puerto Rico President Jose Antonio Colomer said the purchase, combined with the separate pending acquisition of Poncebank, would make BBV the third largest financial institution on the island.