Thu, Dec 01, 2005 - Page 11 News List

China appears cool toward this month's WTO meeting


China appears to be not particularly committed ahead of a WTO meeting in Hong Kong in the middle of the month that aims to negotiate a liberalization of global trade.

The new WTO member country, accepted to the organization in 2001, apparently sees itself as being in a transitional period.

Meanwhile, the expectations for the summit have been lowered almost every day, and for China, like the US and the EU, the motto seems to be, "Not failing is a success."

Not even as host of the summit in the former British colony of Hong Kong, which was returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 and which can now once again shine as a beacon of world trade, is the Chinese government displaying any particular zest.

While it has been said that the world's largest developing country harbors intentions of establishing itself as the advocate of the globe's poor countries, India and Brazil appear to be much more active in this respect.

"I don't see any signs that China wants to take on a leading role amongst developing countries," said Liang Yanfen, a trade expert attached to the Chinese trade ministry's research institute in Beijing.

China wants to help make this new summit more successful than previous ones, but doesn't necessarily want to put its own proposals on the negotiating table, Liang said.

The main focus of the summit is after all the demand by developing countries that the US and EU relinquish their export subsidies and trade barriers on agricultural produce.

This demand, however, seems to be of precious little concern for China. But it is easily overlooked that the existing offers by the EU and US for removing subsidies rely heavily on movement and a continued market liberalization of the industry and service sectors.

This aspect is indeed of concern for China, which although it has lowered various duties considerably since joining the WTO, has kept other duties -- for example in the automotive manufacturing sector -- high.

Further hurdles have to be overcome in the financial and insurance sectors: Germany and other European nations as well as the US say that China will have to offer a lot more here.

But the upcoming talks in Hong Kong will mostly focus on the agricultural sector anyway, which is comparatively unimportant for China as the country is not a major exporter of agricultural products.

The country's agricultural sector only contributes 15 percent to GDP. But the remainder of China's dramatically growing economy, which as the factory of the globalized world profits heavily from its exports, would without doubt be the big winner if more trade barriers fell.

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