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New Quotas on Farm Imports Revealed

The Chinese Government formally disclosed the detailed rules on new tariff quotas for agricultural imports on Friday.

The move fulfilled another commitment made by Beijing last year to the World Trade Organization.

Under the new rules, drawn up by the State Development Planning Commission, the country's imports of 10 key agricultural products will be decided in accordance with both the demands of the Chinese market and the tariff quotas promised by Beijing during negotiations with the WTO.

The key products are corn, cotton, palm oil, rapeseed oil, rice, woollen yarn, soya-bean oil, sugar, wheat and wool.

The agricultural imports covered by the tariff quota limit will enjoy a favorable tariff of less than 10 percent.

The total amount of the key agricultural imports may be above or below the quota limit under the new rules but a tariff of around 70 percent will be imposed on the excess amount, according to commission officials.

The new rules will expire by 2005, when WTO member countries are to further discuss the rules on agricultural trade between members, said the commission.

Chen Xiwen, an expert with the Development Research Center under the State Council, said: "Market forces dominate the country's agricultural imports under the new rules.''

Such a tendency will not change even after 2005, said Chen.

The Chinese Government will be deprived of the power to decide whether or not to import a certain kind of agricultural product.

Nor will the government be allowed to decide the amount of imports of these agricultural products as it did before, said Chen.

Qualified domestic importers -- including agricultural enterprises and wholesalers -- can apply to be included under the preferential tariff quotas at the State Development Planning Commission and its provincial branches between October 15 and 30 each year.

The commission will divide the total quotas among the applicants on the basis of their requests, previous import records and production capacity, according to the rules.

More detailed information on this year's tariff quotas for agricultural imports will be published by the commission on its website at www.sdpc.gov.cn in the coming weeks.

A commission official surnamed Liu said the quotas for the next few years were also set during Beijing's negotiations with WTO members.

According to Liu, the tariff quotas for imported grains -- including corn, rice and wheat -- come to a total of 18.3 million tons for this year.

The State Development Planning Commission published the drafts of the rules last November to determine public opinion.

China has made a commitment to the WTO that it will publish drafts of all economic, investment and trade laws and regulations to determine the views of the public before deciding on the final versions.

According to the international practice of WTO members, draft laws and regulations should be made available to the public for three months to seek suggestions.

(China Daily February 2, 2002)

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