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WTO Membership 'Big Plus for Everyone?'
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Five years after China signed on to join the World Trade Organization, WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy said that the nation's membership in the global trade body is a "big plus for everyone."

No one doubts China's achievements since becoming a WTO member on December 11, 2001. China's trade volume this year is expected to reach US$1.7 trillion, more than triple the US$509.6 billion notched up in 2001.

The WTO conducted its first review of China's trade policy in June this year, and was generally positive about the situation.

"Even if there are still areas that need some improvements, the political commitment and determination shown by the Chinese Government is serious and responsible and all members have acknowledged it," said Lamy.

Since joining the global trade body, China has adjusted its trade policies in accordance with its commitments to the organization, said Zhang Xiangchen, director of the department of WTO affairs at the Ministry of Commerce.

First, measures have been taken to improve the transparency of laws and regulations.

"From the end of 1999 to 2005, the central government constituted, adjusted and abolished over 2,000 laws, regulations and rules in line with its WTO commitments," Zhang said.

Second, the country's commodity market has been largely opened to international competitors.

China's average tariffs were lowered to 9.9 percent in 2005 from 15.3 percent in 2001, while tariffs on industrial products were reduced to 9 percent and those on agricultural products were cut to 15.3 percent.

Third, China is also opening its service market in line with its commitments to the global trade body.

"As the country adjusts its laws and regulations concerning the service market, overseas service providers have gained increased access to the Chinese market," Zhang said.

Over 100 service sectors, or 62.5 percent of the total service industry, have been opened to international players. This percentage is close to the level of developed WTO members.

Finally, the country's enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR) protection has improved following the adjustment of virtually all IPR-related laws and legal explanations to conform to international rules.

The WTO trade policy review also urged China to address some problems related to non-trade barriers and encouraged the country to accelerate its efforts in subsidy notifications.

However, Zhang acknowledged, trade protectionism is rising as economic globalization gathers pace.

As China's trade volume with the rest of the world continues to grow rapidly, the nation is becoming embroiled in more trade conflicts and has become the biggest victim of trade disputes China is involved in one out of every seven global dumping disputes.
"We expect China will continue to encounter trade disputes for a rather long period of time," Zhang said.

As the world's most populous nation marks the fifth anniversary of its entry into the global trade body, China is also poised to become an even bigger player in economic globalization.

For example, China has made numerous efforts to restart the WTO's stalled Doha round of talks in a bid to lower global trade barriers.

(China Daily December 6, 2006)

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