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Thu, Mar 07, 2002 - Page 21 News List

Chinese officials vow to ease pain of WTO entry

AP , BEIJING

Top officials promised yesterday to ease the pain of China's entry into the WTO with spending on projects ranging from promoting high-tech exports to breeding better farm animals.

"Everything possible will be done to increase the country's volume of exports," said Zeng Peiyan, the development planning minister, in a report to China's legislature.

Zeng and Finance Minister Xiang Huaicheng repeated warnings to China's industries -- and especially its farms -- that they must adapt to jarring changes after its December entry into the WTO, the rule-making body for world trade.

But they echoed the hopes of economic reformers that opening to foreign competition will make China's industries more competitive and encourage the inflow of investment, skills and technology.

Sounding more like a corporate vice president than a communist central planner, Zeng said Beijing plans to invest in new industries ranging from biotechnology to digital television.

Xiang promised help to China's inefficient, low-tech farms, which are expected to be among the biggest losers in the WTO transition. The government warned last week that China could lose 20 million farming jobs over the next several years.

In the countryside, where some 800 million people live, Xiang said China will spend 27.4 billion yuan (US$3.3 billion) on developing better seeds and livestock and helping farmers adapt to competition brought by WTO entry.

Zeng promised support to more than five million jobless urban workers laid off in the overhaul of state industry. He said China's poorest areas would get 10.6 billion yuan (US$1.3 billion) in "poverty reduction" spending.

Reversing a policy of restricting the outflow of investment, Zeng said Beijing will encourage Chinese companies to expand abroad.

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