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Favorable signs for Doha talks

Updated: 2013-03-09 03:32
By DING QINGFEN ( China Daily)

China to take a more proactive role in opening-up, minister says

China is committed to pushing forward the Doha round of talks in response to what it sees as recent positive signs that may lead to progress in the global trade talks around the end of this year, the minister of commerce said on Friday.

China will hold talks toward bilateral investment agreements with more countries and regions, especially the developed ones, to remove restrictions that Chinese companies have encountered, Chen Deming said at a news conference on the sidelines of the National People's Congress' annual session in Beijing.

The Doha talks, started in 2001 to help the world's poorest countries, have not been smooth.

In 2011, Pascal Lamy, director-general of the World Trade Organization, declared an "impasse".

Reports said the countries concerned had reached consensus on a majority of issues, but some nations, led by the United States, held divergent views on a few sensitive issues.

"There have been some new signals about the Doha talks during the past two months, and all member nations concerned are considering launching an early harvest program" by the end of this year, and "China is glad to see and advance the proposal", Chen said.

"Generally speaking, all the member nations are confident of the program," Chen said.

Although it has been blamed for being one of the few nations that brought the talks to a standstill, the US has been active in advancing regional trade pacts.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, also known as the TPP, which covers 11 nations, is expected to be concluded in 2013, and early this year the US and the European Union announced the start of talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, also known as the TTIP.

Both are reportedly in response to the growing economic power of China in Asia and worldwide.

The US invited Japan to join the TPP, and Japan has also expressed its desire to do so, but China is not included in the talks. "All the regional trade pacts should be transparent and inclusive to all," Chen said.

According to Chen, regional and bilateral trade pacts are encouraged under the framework of the WTO, but all WTO members, including the US and China, should put priority on the Doha talks.

Yi Xiaozhun, the Chinese ambassador to the WTO, said that the US is deviating from the multilateral trade system through putting great efforts into the regional trade pacts led by the TPP and TTIP.

"We should strike some balance between the regional and multilateral trade talks. Anyway, the Doha round of talks is the most important of all," Yi, also a member of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said on the sidelines of the CPPCC session.

China has signed free trade agreements with 15 nations, and negotiations are under way for 13 other trade talks with nations including Japan, South Korea, Iceland and Switzerland, according to the ministry.

The US was urged by some countries to go back to the table and to the negotiations, as the Doha round is "in crisis".

Chen said "China will take a more proactive role in opening up to the world" on a wide range of issues, including service and trade, regional development, free trade, foreign investment and foreign trade.

He especially pointed out China's need to step up efforts to invest abroad, extending its reach to more developed economies on signing bilateral investment agreements.

China has signed investment agreements with more than 100 countries and regions. Last year, China and the US agreed to resume bilateral investment agreement talks.

Contact the writer at dingqingfen@chinadaily.com.cn

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