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Fri, Jun 09, 2006 - Page 10 News List

EU trade chief tells Beijing to open up markets

AFP , BEIJING

EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson urged China yesterday to assume a greater leadership role in the global economy, saying much more was needed to open up the Asian giant's markets.

Mandelson, on a five-day trip to China, listed a litany of grievances in fields ranging from agricultural products to banking, as he spoke to students at the People's University in Beijing.

"China's World Trade Organization membership has been another significant step -- provided the commitments are met. But more is needed," he said.

He said China, which entered the WTO in late 2001, was destined to play "a pivotal role" in the world economy for decades to come, but that this status was linked to important duties and obligations.

"Economic leadership also brings with it responsibilities -- to respect and support open markets, to apply rather than circumvent the rules and, above all, to ensure that the benefits of open markets are shared by all," he said.

Issues raised by Mandelson included non-tariff barriers such as procedures for product certification and labeling approvals, as well as lengthy authorization periods.

Mandelson also mentioned sanitary barriers in agricultural trade, national standards in conflict with international ones and a failure to open up government procurement.

Finally, he pointed out complex rules restricting foreign investment and unequal access to banking and finance.

"These practices complicate the lives of our businesses selling into China. We would like to work now with China to see them removed," he said.

The value of Chinese exports to the EU has almost doubled in four years from US$104 billion to US$201 billion, according to Mandelson..

He said this had boosted China's share in overall EU imports to more than 13 percent from 8 percent over the same period.

Mandelson also warned yesterday of the protectionist dangers of not brokering an agreement to global trade talks, as the pressure of a year-end deadline built.

"As strong multilateralists, our highest priority right now in the `globalization agenda' is an ambitious and successful conclusion of the Doha Development Round," Mandelson said.

"Failure to broker a deal would shake public confidence in our capacity to ensure that the benefits of globalization are fairly shared. It would risk fueling protectionism," he added.

Mandelson was making his comments three weeks before members of the WTO were set to meet in Geneva to discuss the Doha Development Round, a sweeping endeavor to facilitate commerce.

He said China was among the nations that would lose heavily if the Doha talks failed to result in an agreement.

"It would weaken the rules-based international trading system and would make life much harder for China in growing your external trade. Doha is, in all these respects, too important to fail," he said.

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