China's WTO Updates
Experts Discuss Post-WTO Agriculture

An increasing number of Chinese farmers are aware of the country's World Trade Organization (WTO) entry and are trying to understand what it really means to them.

Their transition was assisted Monday by overseas experts, who were in Beijing to discuss the post-WTO agriculture environment.

"China's farmers had little input into China's decision to join the WTO but for a successful entry, a great deal depends on them to make the changes and to implement the reforms that will benefit their families and all China's citizens,'' said Frederick Crook, an agriculture expert who has retired from the Markets and Trade Division of the Economic Research Service at the US Department of Agriculture.

During Monday's forum, Crook and four other agriculture experts from the United States hoped to bring local farmers up to speed about the changes.

Robert Anderson, a leading figure in the development of US national organic policies and standards, said China's ascension to the WTO will continue to reduce and eliminate trade barriers between it and the US and pave the way for more growth in agricultural trade.

He said there are significant opportunities for Chinese organic farmers, suppliers, manufacturers and exporters to explore within the US market.

The US and China are large trading partners in agricultural products, representing a US$2.7 billion market. China is the sixth largest export market for US agriculture.

"Understanding the organic consumer, the US organic marketplace and the US organic regulations are necessary for Chinese agriculture to access this exciting US market,'' Anderson said.

Chinese scholars believe enhancing exchanges and consultations between China and other countries will help both promote healthy trade.

Xu Xiaoqing, deputy director-general of the Department of Rural Economic Research at the Development Research Center of the State Council, said China has made a large number of commitments in the agriculture sector and the transition period will be crucial and even painful for local farmers.

Wen Tiejun, from the Rural Economy Research Center at the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture, said Chinese farmers on small plots of land cannot compete with big farms in the United States, saying the WTO entry will depress farmer incomes, particularly in the center and west of China.

Wen said the import of cheap, high quality agricultural products will make it harder to use economic policies to boost domestic production.

According to a recent survey by the State Council Development Research Center, about 70 percent of rural people have been pushed away from their home areas by the shortage of agricultural resources.

Xu said it will be unrealistic for China to underestimate the negative impact on rural employment and the incomes of Chinese farmers after the WTO entry.

"But one thing is clear, that when we open our door other countries also open their doors,'' Xu said.

"With enhancing co-operation with the US, we could strive for more beneficial conditions in an advantageous position in the global agricultural market.''

(China Daily October 22, 2002)


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