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Foreign Trade Law Amendment Approved

The draft amendment to the Foreign Trade Law, submitted for discussion for the third time, was passed by a unanimous vote at the 8th meeting of the 10th National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, which concluded on Tuesday afternoon.

The ratification of the revised Foreign Trade Law, which will take effect on July 1, ends a two-year-long review of laws related to foreign trade and makes China's legal system consistent with its WTO commitment.

Twelve other laws related to foreign trade, such as the joint venture, foreign enterprise and customs laws, have already been revised and passed.

Huang Jianchu, chief of the economic law section under the NPC Standing Committee's Commission on Legislative Affairs, said that legislation directly related to China's WTO commitment is now complete and the focus will shift to reviewing related administrative regulations.

The revised Foreign Trade Law has three major changes: individuals are allowed to conduct foreign trade business; legally registered foreign trade operators can now import and export goods and technology without obtaining administrative approval; foreign trade rights to a percentage of special products such as petroleum, grain, chemical fertilizer, cotton, sugar and edible oil, which were completely reserved for state-owned enterprises in the past, will be granted to formerly unauthorized companies.

The revised Foreign Trade Law contains new clauses on maintenance of order and fair trade and on seeking relief. This will enable domestic traders to utilize the anti-subsidy and anti-dumping protections of the WTO to safeguard their interests.

In order to respond promptly to sudden changes in foreign trade and provide better service to traders, the revised law also includes clauses for establishing an early warning system, a public information service system and a statistics mechanism, and guidelines for publicity about illegal operations.

The only punitive measure in the existing law was the withdrawal of operation credit. The revision strengthens sanctions against illegal operations by adopting more severe punishments ranging from criminal to administrative penalties and cancellation of operators' licenses.

The revision also includes clauses protecting intellectual property rights in trade to protect the rights of both domestic and foreign property owners.

"The smooth passage of the revised law benefited from the full participation in the legislation by the NPC Standing Committee members, related administrative departments, state-owned and foreign-funded trade enterprises and chambers of commerce," said Huang.

The clause that enables a trader to ask for reconsideration or legal proceedings following administrative punishment came from the suggestion of chambers of commerce of foreign-funded trade enterprises. A clause on mandatory imports and exports was canceled because of the disagreement of members of the NPC Standing Committee, according to Huang.

He stressed that the revised Foreign Trade Law is relatively complete and feasible, but that it cannot be effectively implemented without the amendments to the related administrative regulations, which are still pending.

(Xinhua News Agency April 7, 2004)

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