China entered a new period of its opening up policy on Monday, the fifth anniversary of the country's entry into the World Trade Organization.
Over the past five years, China has dropped its tariffs, canceled its non-tariffs measures and opened up its markets in accordance with the pledge it made when joining the WTO.
Overall, China has dropped its tariffs from 15.3 percent in 2001 to 9.9 percent in 2006. It has canceled non-tariff measures, some of which have lasted for more than 50 years. In addition, China has opened its service industry, a highly sensitive issue five years ago.
In its latest efforts, China opened its financial markets to foreign banks on Monday and will allow qualified firms to wholesale crude and refined oil from Jan. 1, breaking the state monopoly.
Pascal Lamy, WTO director-general, and Charlene Barshefsky, former US trade representative, both top negotiators for China's entry into the WTO, have praised China's fulfillment of WTO pledges.
Lamy told Xinhua in Geneva that he gave China's performance an A-plus. Barshefsky told Xinhua that China had made remarkable progress in opening its economy since it joined the WTO.
"China has made remarkable progress in opening its economy, in welcoming imports and in inviting foreign investment," she said.
Yi Xiaozhun, vice-minister of commerce, said on Monday that China's accession to the WTO over the past five years had led to three major changes in China's opening to the outside world.
China's opening has moved from regional and partial opening to an overall opening. The opened area extends from goods trade to the service trade. The opening of the market is taking place under increasingly transparent laws and regulations, he said.
It took China 15 years of talks to join the WTO. When China was finally accepted as a WTO member, it was granted a three to five year "transitional period" for certain sectors to prepare for outside competition.
Over the past five years, China has set about fulfilling the WTO criteria.
It has amended and drafted thousands of laws and regulations.
The Central Government opened its official Website on Jan. 1 this year and 86 percent of central and local government departments have established official websites over the past few years.
China has quickened its steps to reform its banking sector. Three of China's four major state-owned commercial banks have been listed home and abroad since last year.
By September this year, a total of 25 Chinese cities have allowed foreign banks to run RMB business and 111 foreign banking institutions were allowed to do so.
The EU and the United States have urged China to do more to protect intellectual property rights and open up its markets.
China has also faced a rising number of trade disputes. In 2001, China was the subject of 15 percent of the world's anti-dumping cases. In 2005, the percentage had risen to 30.
"China may also face challenges in the new round of multi-lateral trade talks - the Doha Talks - regarding its agricultural safety, financial safety and energy safety," said Sun Zhenyu, China's chief representative to the WTO.
China's trade analysts have urged the government to quicken its reforms and be prepared to handle an increasing number of trade disputes.
"We should greatly improve our trade relations with other economies and pay attention to the risks of rising Renminbi exchange rates," Shan Zhongdong of the Beijing University told Xinhua on Monday.
Long Yongtu, China's chief WTO negotiator and now secretary-general for the Bo'ao Forum for Asia, said the opening up policy can only do good for China.
"So far as I see it, opening up will not damage our economic safety," said Long. "So long as we have a sound system of laws and regulations, and implement them forcefully, we are not afraid of opening up. The more open we are, the more progress we will see."
(Xinhua News Agency December 12, 2006)