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China optimistic about new round of WTO talks: trade official (28/06/04)


 China is optimistic that a framework agreement on the new round of WTO negotiations would come out by the end of July, a senior Chinese trade official said in Beijing on June 28.

    Yi Xiaozhun, assistant minister of commerce, told businessmen attending the 37th International General Meeting of the Pacific Basin Economic Council that he hoped all WTO members would take a "flexible" and "pragmatic" attitude in talks.

    Yi himself participated in a number of consultations among WTO members, including the OECD ministerial meeting, the WTO mini-ministerial in Paris in mid-May, the APEC trade ministers' meetingin Chile in early June, as well as the WTO G-20 ministerial meeting in Sao Paulo a week ago.

    "It seems the trade ministers have had serious consultations on the DDA (Doha Development Agenda) issues. And the emerging consensus came out from those meetings is that we all want framework modalities by the end of July," he said.

    The Doha Development Agenda refers to the WTO talks named after the Qatari capital of Doha where the new round of was launched in 2001.

    "To me, it is a mission possible to reach an agreement, which is 100 percent satisfactory to all WTO members," he said. "So we have to be flexible and pragmatic, and give necessary consideration to the concerns of other parties, including making compromises and concessions when the situation so warrants."

    The assistant minister argued that it doesn't mean that memberswill have to forego their principles.

    "What we need to do is to strive for a framework agreement, up to a good standard, a standard that meets the established objectives and the level of ambition in trade liberalization and set out by the mandate of Doha Declaration." he said.

    Yi urged all WTO members to translate their strong political will into flexible and pragmatic approach in Geneva, and table concrete and specific proposals in the negotiations.

    The new round of negotiations has lagged far behind schedule after the talks collapsed at the ministerial meeting in Cancun, Mexico, last year.

    "Positive results of the DDA will help renew and strengthen confidence in the system (of WTO), and are beneficial to all members," Yi said. "The results ... will have critical impact on China."

    China joined the WTO in 2001. He said China's future development is heavily and highly dependent on the success of DDA.

    "As the DDA negotiations on various topics have been resumed and are proceeding intensively, the consensus is to cut a deal on framework modalities on major issues such as agriculture, services,trade facilitation by the end of coming July," he said, adding, "Now the question is, how can we get there, how can we reach the July agreement? "

    On the issue of agriculture, the key to any success of Doha negotiations, Yi said China has made firm commitment to eliminating all agricultural subsidies.

    "As a developing and relatively lower-income country, China does not afford to effectively subsidize its weak agricultural production," he said. "Meanwhile, China's agriculture is sufferingfrom heavily subsidized competition from developed countries. Thisunfair situation got to be corrected in the DDA negotiations."

    The discrepancy in export subsidy and domestic support have been narrowed whereas debates now focused on formula of tariffs reduction, he said.

    Members are now debating on formula for tariffs cuts. China is also discussing its specific formula with other members of the G-20 with a view to cutting tariffs substantively and to improving market access.

    As for the other issues, like the Singapore issues, China supports the launch of trade facilitation immediately and put aside the other three issues, he said.

    "From now on we will see intensive negotiations in Geneva. If all members, especially, the major players, may show their strong political will and necessary flexibility, we will see framework modalities by the end of July," Yi said.



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