Wine producers and traders from more than 80 foreign wineries and distilleries toasted the successful conclusion yesterday of the China (Zhuhai) International Wine & Spirits Trade Fair.
The attendees were especially high on China's World Trade Organization (WTO) entry. That change will mean substantial tariff reductions on wine and spirits and more imports of foreign alcoholic products, said Benny Pollack, Chile's ambassador to China.
Pollack, who attended the World Wine & Spirits Association Conference that was held concurrently with the fair, had his optimism echoed by wine officials from Britain, the United States and Australia.
China's tariffs on foreign wine and spirits are expected to drop from the current 65 per cent to about 10 per cent within five years.
The change will come gradually and the domestic market will be standardized along the way, promised Liu Yuan, secretary-general of the China Liquor Commerce Association. Liu declined to name a specific figure for the coming tariff cuts.
"China's entry into the WTO will promote the prosperity and development of the country's economy, stimulating demand for wine and spirits in the domestic market and creating business opportunities for both domestic and foreign firms," Liu said.
Liu also forecast a rise of foreign investment in the country's wine and spirit sector and more imports of foreign advanced equipment and technology.
"We welcome foreign firms to invest in China, co-operate with their Chinese counterparts, develop the market and bring their top products to the Chinese consumers," he said.
China is already among the world's largest wine and spirits producers and consumers.
Last year, the country produced 30.4 million tons of alcoholic products. Beer accounted for 73.5 per cent at 22.3 million tons, while liquor accounted for 19.7 per cent at 6 million tons. About 250,000 tons of wines were sold.
Still, per capita consumption remains low. The per capita consumption of wine in China is 5 per cent of the world average, Liu said. The fair will become an annual event, said Li Jianlin, an organizer.
(China Daily December 10, 2001)