WTO Bid Nears Last Milestone

China's entry to the World Trade Organization moved closer yesterday as its negotiators met in Beijing with officials from Mexico, the only WTO member that has not signed a bilateral membership agreement with China.

Details on the talks were not revealed, but Long Yongtu, China's chief negotiator, said the discussions should not stand in the way of the country's membership in the world's largest trade group.

Mexico earlier said it would not impede China's entry.

Analysts say the focal points of the Sino-Mexican talks are labor-intensive sectors such as textiles and the mechanical industry.

Last Friday in Geneva, the WTO working group handling China's membership bid wrapped up talks in which a series of multilateral legal documents were concluded, which could pave the way for final approval at the WTO's September 18th session.

In Hanoi yesterday, Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan told an annual meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and its dialogue partners that China's membership in the WTO will offer the world's largest market with 1.3 billion people and provide an important impetus to the development of the global economy.

"Once in the WTO, China will strictly comply with the universally followed rules of the market and open wider to the world," said Tang.

China's economy grew 7.9 percent in the first half of this year. In recent years, the country's imports have maintained strong growth momentum. Imports increased 35.8 percent last year and 18.2 percent the year before, amounting to more than US$800 billion over the past five years, reported Xinhua news agency.

More than half that amount came from Asia, Tang said.

He noted that in the next five years, China forecasts it will import some US$1.4 trillion worth of equipment, technology and products.

"This undoubtedly spells a huge market and business opportunities," he said.

Tang said China is the biggest developing country in Asia and the world, and it is ready to further its cooperation with other countries to their mutual benefit.

He went on to urge developed countries to assume greater responsibilities for stimulating the growth of the world economy.

Tang said developed countries are the main beneficiaries of economic globalization and should bear the main responsibilities for economic growth.

The richer nations should give developing countries greater support and more assistance, Tang said.

"They should cancel or reduce the debts of developing countries or reschedule their repayment," he said.

The ASEAN nations are Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Thailand.

The 10 ASEAN dialogue partners are China, Japan, South Korea, the European Union, Russia, India, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

(Eastday.com 07/27/2001)

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