China's WTO Updates
Foreign Trade Booming Since WTO Entry

Turn on a TV, browse a website or pick up a newspaper and one word will leap at you: WTO (World Trade Organization).

It has dominated media reports since December 11 when China secured accession after years of preparation.

And the half-yearly report makes good reading. China has no reason to be dissatisfied with its performance in carrying out its commitments to the WTO.

The government has issued more than six laws and regulations on imports since January, and about seven on the access of foreign capital covering such fields as law, telecommunications, finance, insurance, international marine transport and travel service.

It has amended three laws on foreign direct investment and three more concerning trademark, copyright and drug management are under way. These will make the protection of intellectual property rights fully in line with the requirements of TRIPS in legislation.

The average tariff rate of more than 5,000 kinds of products has dropped to 12 percent from 15.3 percent. Of this, industrial products have seen a decrease of 3.4 percent from 14.7 percent to 11.3 percent and agricultural products (aquatic not included) 15.8 percent from 18.8 percent.

More than 200 kinds of products requiring licenses and subject to quotas have had these restrictions removed.

"Foreign trade and economic status is better than anticipated.'' said Shi Guangsheng, minister of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Co-operation.

Between January and May, the domestic economy increased by 7 percent, imports were up 13.2 percent and the effective utilization of foreign capital rose by 12.4 percent, Shi said.

"Generally speaking, entry to the WTO provides the impetus for our economic growth and in the whole of this year, our foreign trade and economy will continue to grow steadily which will probably be matched by a simultaneous rise in GDP (gross domestic product),'' he said.

And customs statistics have alleviated the worry of a sudden surge in imports since the country slashed its tariffs and lifted some non-tariff barriers.

Between January and July, imports and exports totaled US$32.68 million in value, a year-on-year increase of 14.8 percent.

The exports volume reached US$17.12 million, an increase of 16.2 percent which was lower than anticipated, and that of imports grew by up to US$15.56 million, up 13.2 percent.

A favorable balance of US$1.56 million was achieved which registered an increase of 58.2 percent.

Experts predict that sharp changes in imports would not occur, but some products such as autos and chemical fertilizer would see a relatively rapid growth due to the lifting of restrictions.

Exports of corn and cotton were down and imports would pass exports by a great margin because of the cancellation of export subsidies. Domestic prices would also slump as a result.

Agriculture has always been the country's mainstay industry.

In the first half of this year, by employing "Green Box Policies,'' the Chinese Government has invested more money into agricultural technologies and infrastructure to promote the development of farming.

It is perfecting the quality criteria of agricultural products as well as the supervision mechanism and seeking to build a highly efficient anti-dumping system.

However, some experts said the government needs to do more to strengthen communication between its departments in order to turn in a more efficient performance.

How to take maximum advantage of the agreements on safeguards is another striking problem.

"For China, it is urgent to build a mechanism and develop capacity to solve any kind of anti-dumping case.'' said professor Huang Jikun, director of the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

"Our government needs to invest more in agriculture through the `Green Box Policies' as well."

More support and investment could improve agricultural productivity and the quality of agricultural products, thus enhancing the country's capacity to deal with TBT (Technical Barrier to Trade) and SPS (Sanitary and Phytosanitary) which requires substantial investments in standards-and capacity-oriented institutions, he said.

(China Daily August 27, 2002)

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