China's Minister of Agriculture has stressed the strain on the country's agricultural industry that would be caused by further reduction of farming tariffs during talks with visiting director general of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Pascal Lamy.
"China's agricultural industry would not be able to cope if its farm produce market is thrown open over a short period of time. Countries participating in the Doha talks have to consider the realities new WTO members like China face," said Minister Du Qinglin on Tuesday, in response to Lamy's urge for China to play a greater role in reviving the stalled trade talks.
Lamy has asked China to strengthen talks with the six key trade powers, namely European Union (EU), Japan, Australia, India, Brazil and the United States, and play a constructive role within the G20 group of emerging market nations and the G33 group of developing nations, said sources with the Ministry's Press Office.
Du is the third Chinese senior official to exchange views with Lamy on the Doha talks since Monday, following Commerce Minister Bo Xilai and Premier Wen Jiabao.
The Chinese government has urged the EU and the United States to take the lead in making substantial concessions over farm tariffs and subsidy reduction.
Du said that China had honored its WTO commitment that it agreed five years ago. Farm produce imports have been growing at an annual rate of 26.94 percent on the average, he noted. "We have revised laws and regulations which are inconsistent with the WTO rules. Export subsidies for farm produce have all been removed and farming tariffs have been slashed," Du said. He stressed that these revisions had already had a negative effect on the domestic farming industry. "The prices of local farm produce have been driven down by the influx of foreign imports. Rural households who cultivate land for subsistence face rising pressure," he said. "As time goes on, the impact will be much more noticeable."
Du assured Lamy that China would stick to the policy of opening up but proceed in a "solid and moderate manner".
(Xinhua News Agency September 6, 2006)