TAKING OFF THE WRAPS

TAKING OFF THE WRAPS

t's good to see that the Clinton administration has released the full - and voluminous - text of its agreement with Beijing on China's accession to the World Trade Organization.

The terms of the 250-page market-access accord have already been summarized and publicized, so no surprises are expected. But keeping the wraps on the document only made it look as if there could be - and that the administration was trying to hide something.And that wasn't going to help the White House convince Congress to approve permanent normal-trade-relations status for China, which is necessary if the United States is to be able to take advantage of the pact.

But there's no dark conspiracy. Washington and Beijing had initially agreed to keep a lid on the text while China was bargaining similar agreements with other nations, something that's required for it to become a WTO member. President Clinton no doubt also was still smarting from his artlessly quick release last year of the full terms of an earlier offer from Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji, which got the prime minister in trouble with hard liners in Beijing.

Both governments now see that making the agreement public is in their best interests. They're right. It shows there's nothing to hide.