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Manufacturers, Exporters, Wholesalers - Global trade starts here.
China Urged to Help Break US-EU Deadlock

China should play a more active role in the upcoming Hong Kong meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to help break the deadlock between the US and the EU over agriculture, US trade representative Rob Portman said yesterday.


"China can be helpful in this regard, encouraging the EU to take on its part of responsibility with agriculture and then working with the EU and the US in all other areas to ensure it's a successful round," Portman told a press conference in Beijing.


The US and the EU are at loggerheads on how to open their agriculture markets to less developed nations, and concerns are mounting that the dispute may derail the WTO ministerial conference next month in Hong Kong.


"I encouraged my Chinese counterparts today to play an even more active role in the talks," he said, adding that it is a once-a-generation opportunity.


Portman yesterday met Chinese officials including Commerce Minister Bo Xilai and Bo's predecessor, Shi Guangsheng, now chairman of the finance committee of the National People's Congress, China's parliament.


Although China has tabled some offers including one involving services, the US trade representative would like to see the country more engaged, particularly in agriculture, and "bridge" the differences between some of the parties.


He said this month's APEC gathering would be an opportunity in the run-up to the Hong Kong meeting.


Trade ministers from the 21 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum will attend an urgent meeting in South Korea today to discuss how to make the December 13-18 Hong Kong meeting a success.


"I am concerned right now. Unless we can break the deadlock in agriculture, it would be hard to make progress on all the other issues, including development," Portman said.


He said he also asked Chinese officials to make faster progress in opening their markets to US imports.


Portman expects the US trade deficit with China to reach a record US$200 billion this year.


Liang Yanfen, a trade expert at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, said China has not clearly identified its stand on the upcoming WTO meeting.


"But that does not mean China places any less importance on the meeting; what China wants is to help achieve a successful result, rather than put forward proposals itself," Liang said.


She said reaching an agreement on the Doha round of the WTO talks is in China's interest, as it benefits a lot from a free and multilateral trade system.


On Sino-US trade, she said it is understandable that the US wants to export more.


"But they have to know the trade deficit is because of a structural problem given different strengths in each of the economies," she said.


(China Daily November 15, 2005)

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