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EU Not Ready to Grant China Market Status

The European Commission said Wednesday it was not ready to grant market economy status to China — a move that would help Beijing avoid punitive antidumping measures.

Francoise Le Bail, chief spokeswoman for the European Union's head office, said it was unclear when China would meet EU criteria for being a market economy.

"The Commission is checking to see if China fits this criteria," she said. "It's a very technical process ... It's difficult to give a deadline."

On Thursday, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso was to visit China for talks focusing on trade and political cooperation.

In a statement, Barroso noted that the EU last year replaced the United States as China's largest trading partner, with annual trade totaling € 174 billion (US$212 billion). China is the EU's second-largest trade partner, after the US.

"Our challenge now is to understand China's dramatic re-emergence, to learn to work better with this tremendous country and seize the opportunities provided by its unprecedented growth," Barroso said.
Nevertheless, Barroso will face a number of tricky issues in Beijing, including EU nations' failure to agree on lifting a 15-year arms embargo on China, surges in Chinese footwear imports and long-standing human rights concerns.

Australia granted China market status in April, but many of Beijing's other trading partners have held back because of concerns that Chinese authorities still interfere too much in business.

London's Financial Times last week quoted Ian Pearson, Britain's minister of state for trade, as saying his government was talking with its EU partners on the subject. "We in Britain believe China should be granted market economy status," he was quoted as saying during a visit to China.

The market label is a prized commodity. Among other benefits, it allows countries to provide their own evidence when they are accused of price-fixing on the international export market.

As world trade opens up, such accusations are becoming a favorite way of erecting alternative trade barriers.

During Barroso's five-day visit, he planned to meet President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing, and to travel also to Hong Kong and Macao.

(Chinadaily.com via agencies July 14, 2005)

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