NEW YORK - The main US auditor watchdog said it is close to an agreement that will allow it to observe audit inspections in China, a first step toward doing joint inspections there.

The breakthrough in lengthy negotiations between the United States and China on joint inspections came last week during meetings in Beijing, said Jim Doty, chairman of the US Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), which oversees the audit industry, in a telephone interview.

US observations of audits inspections in China "will be a first step toward greater cooperation on cross-border oversight and joint inspections," Doty said.

The plan would let PCAOB officials observe Chinese authorities when they inspect audits that are done in China of US-listed companies, according to Doty.

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