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China to Speak for Developing Nations at Cancun

China is expected to speak on behalf of developing countries and urge developed nations to make concessions at the Fifth WTO Ministerial Conference that opens today in Cancun, Mexico.

Minister of Commerce Lu Fuyuan said that rich nations must listen to the concerns of developing nations if they want to reach a consensus at the meeting.

He hopes the meeting can reach a favorable outcome and provide practical solutions.

The Cancun meeting is a key milestone in the Doha Development Agenda, the latest round of international trade negotiations launched in Doha in November 2001; it is an intermediate stage where negotiators will take stock and make sure that the round is on target for completion at the end of 2004 as scheduled.

Of 20 separate issues, trade in agriculture is a hot topic where China differs from the United States and the European Union. "China has its own interests, which are not quite the same as that of the United States or the European Union," said Lu.

US Chief Agriculture Negotiator Allen Johnson and EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy visited Beijing in June to seek collaboration on agricultural negotiations but the Chinese minister declined to elaborate the nation's stance on the issue.

WTO members were supposed, but failed, to agree on agriculture negotiating modalities on March 31 due to wide differences over cutting subsidies.

The farm impasse threatens to stretch the WTO's new round beyond the January 2005 deadline, said Long Guoqiang, a researcher from the Development and Research Center at the State Council.

He said differences were so wide that a tight January 2005 deadline for conclusion of negotiations on an accord to lower trade barriers was looking increasingly out of reach.

Sun Zhenyu, China's Ambassador to WTO, said in an interview with Xinhua News Agency that he is not optimistic about the Cancun meeting as members have too many conflicts.

China will not promise more outside its commitment to the WTO, which has already been a test for its domestic industry, Long said.

Long said China's involvement in the new round can give it a say in laying down international trading rules - this is clearly shown in its stance on a number of WTO issues and in its efforts to fight for the interests of developing nations in the new Doha round, he said.

With a rising number of anti-dumping cases against its exports, China hopes that through revising the present WTO anti-dumping agreement, the new round will be able to change the trend, said a researcher from China's WTO Study Center.

China is the subject of the largest number of anti-dumping investigations and final measures among all members, latest WTO statistics show.

The nation will strongly support clarification and improvement of the WTO anti-dumping agreement, which it said is incomplete and unclear and liable to be abused, the researcher said.

(China Daily September 10, 2003)

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