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China keeping WTO pledges: official(12/20/03)

    China has taken considerable steps in the past year to honour its commitments to the World Trade Organization, says a Ministry of Commerce official.

    The remarks were in response to a US report that says Beijing "lost a significant amount of momentum'' in 2003.

    The official, who did not want to be identified, said China's trading partners, including the United States, have given positive feedback on China's progress during an annual review meeting.

    China passed the annual review by the world trade body in Geneva this past Tuesday.

    The world's fastest growing economy, joined the WTO at the end of 2001. Under its entry agreement, it has eight years to comply fully with all the rules of the WTO.

    In fulfilling its promises to the world trade body, China opened more markets and increased imports, providing enormous business opportunities for the world, the official said.

    China's average tariff rate on farm products was lowered to 16.8 per cent in 2003, far below the world average of 62 per cent.

    Benefiting from tariff lowering and elimination of non-tariff measures, farm imports to China jumped 76.3 per cent to US$12.44 billion in the first three quarters.

    China's average duties on industrial products were also cut from 14.7 per cent before WTO entry to 10.3 per cent this year.

    As a result, China imported 13,000 automobiles in the first three quarters, a rise of 40.5 per cent.

    China also further opened the insurance and tourism industries.

    "It is not an easy thing. But we have made great efforts to keep promises,'' said Sun Zhenyu, the Chinese ambassador to WTO.

    But Zhang Hanlin, president of the China Institute for WTO Studies, said foreign complaints are understandable.

    "It is not strange. It is not because China did not keep its promises, but because the foreign investors are too eager to enter the big market,'' Zhang said.

    No country performs perfectly in accordance with its WTO promises, Zhang said, that is why there are so many disputes in the world trade body.

    "China behaves well compared with other countries and its history before entering WTO,'' Zhang said.

    "If China did not play by its commitments in commodity trade and service trade, how have imports surge so fast,'' Zhang added.

    In the first 11 months of 2003, China's imports jumped 39.1 per cent to US$370.6 billion.

    However, China's Minister of Commerce admitted more challenges are waiting in the coming years.

    According to China's WTO commitments, China should grant foreign trading rights to companies in which foreign investors hold majority share in the third year of its WTO entry.

    China was also asked to eliminate licensing management on products such as oil, rubber and automobile.

    Service sectors, including telecommunications, construction and distribution, will also be opened wider to foreign companies.

    Some limitations on location and proportion of foreign investment will lift in insurance and banking industries, according to sources with the ministry.


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