China is gravely concerned that World Trade Organization (WTO) talks have fallen behind schedule, especially on issues that affect developing members, said Chinese Minister of Commerce Lu Fuyuan.
"The future of the multilateral trading system depends on whether the new round of talks will result in real developments," Lu told senior officials from Asia and Pacific.
He urged WTO members to carefully consider the needs of developing members and contribute to the next ministerial meeting of the WTO.
The meeting, to be held in Cancun, Mexico, in September, will evaluate the progress of negotiations and decide whether to extend them to other issues.
The trade ministers of WTO members started a new round of trade liberalization talks at the end of 2001 in Doha, Qatar.
WTO members were supposed to have agreed on guidelines and targets for negotiations on reducing farming subsidies and tariffs by Monday, but positions were so entrenched that the March 31 deadline could not be met.
The failure follows the passing of an end-of-December deadline for an accord to ensure trade patents do not hamper access to life-saving medicines for poorer members unable to produce the drugs.
The 145 members have also failed to agree on how to help developing members participate more fully in the global trade body, despite committing to do so by last July.
Lu spoke yesterday at the opening ceremony of the WTO Advanced Program for Asian and Pacific Senior Trade Officials. The one-month program is sponsored by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, the WTO Secretariat, and the United Nations Economic and Social Council of Asia and the Pacific, and is hosted by Peking University. It is considered an important means of enhancing developing members' capacity to participate in the multilateral trade system.
The program also aims to analyze the latest developments in the ongoing Doha round of the WTO and promote the new round of negotiations by communicating members' positions.
Senior officials from 22 WTO members and observers in the Asia Pacific region, including vice-ministers of Mongolia, Viet Nam, Laos and Fiji, took part in the program.
The minister said China has common interests with other developing members on many issues and is grateful for the exchange of views within the WTO framework. It was important to promote the stability and development of the multilateral trading system, he said.
Lu said developing members need to control the process of opening up markets, while participating in a global economy and multilateral trading system.
They should seek a balance between the development of domestic economies and the liberalization of world trade and investment.
"The more we take part in the multilateral trading system, the more important we feel capacity-building is," Lu said.
He said China hopes to actively participate in the new round of negotiations and promote exchanges between its economy and the world.
(China Daily April 2, 2003)