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Foreign Trade Law to Be Revised
A high-level Chinese trade official said a draft to amend laws pertaining to foreign trade has been completed and will be submitted to the State Council in a few days.

According to Zhang Yuqing, director of the Department of Treaty and Law of the Ministry of Commerce, legislators are expected to deliberate the draft law later this year after it has been approved by the State Council, China's cabinet.

The draft seeks to offer domestic enterprises more avenues of redress to resolve disputes involving foreign trade barriers, Zhang said.

Once ratified, the draft will also further reform the legal system to meet China's commitments to the World Trade Organization (WTO) while striking a better balance between compliance to the international trade organization's rules and the needs of domestic enterprises, said Zhang.

He explained that, with the gloomy world economy, many countries are erecting unreasonable barriers on trade and abusing anti-dumping measures, creating a need for counter-measures.

In order to address this situation, the draft lays out guidelines to facilitate investigations into the legality of trade barriers erected by foreign countries, offering domestic firms an official path for redress.

Under the new law, Chinese enterprises will be able to conduct investigations, turn to arbitration and even resort to the WTO to solve trade barrier or discrimination cases, which go against WTO principles, he said.

China is now the world's leading victim of anti-dumping and safeguard measures in international trade. Since the 1990s, one out of every six anti-dumping cases involved Chinese products.

As of the end of last October, 544 anti-dumping and safeguard measures investigations in 33 countries and regions involved China. However, China only initiated 20 of such cases.

Further, the amendment will for the first time define private individuals as parties able to engage in foreign trade - a move to facilitate private foreign trade business, insiders said.

An expert from the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Co-operation, who declined to be named, said, while China's WTO promises have set out rules for foreign companies engaged in import-export activities in the mainland market, domestic private companies have not been given a legal position.

"The identification of private individuals as foreign traders under the law will strengthen the position of domestic private players in the field," he said.

Since China started to relax control on domestic private businesses' entrance to the foreign trade sector in 1999, only 20,000 enterprises have gained trading rights, according to official statistics.

However, the draft amendment will change the approval system into a registration system for foreign trade business, a move to further open the field, said Zhang.

New stipulations on service and technology trade will be introduced with the law, which will only focus on goods traded, Zhang said.

The draft amendment also incorporates related WTO rules as general principles, and details tariff, quota and national treatment issues.

(China Daily April 8, 2003)

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