G20 London Summit > China Effort

Flexibility signaled on trade talks

By Wang Xu (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-03-23 07:23

The nation will be flexible on some "sensitive issues" in global trade talks to stem the rising wave of protectionism, Commerce Minister Chen Deming said yesterday.

"China will show flexibility on issues like the Agricultural Special Safeguard Mechanism to facilitate the completion of the multilateral world trade system," he said at the China Development Forum 2009 held in Beijing.

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The on-again, off-again Doha Round of talks started in 2001 to lower trade barriers and increase international commerce, but agreement could not be reached last year due to differences between India and the United States on safeguards to protect farmers from a flood of imports.

"The ball is in the United States' court, rather than in developing countries, to push forward the Doha Round," Chen said. "Developed nations, including the US and those in the European Union, need to further slash 70 percent to 80 percent of the distorted agricultural subsidies."

Chen urged the US government to build on agreements reached at previous rounds of talks.

"There are only a few controversial issues remaining," said Chen. "If we restart the (whole round of) talks, it may take another seven years or even longer to complete it."

The failure of the talks smashed the hopes for a much-needed boost to world trade, which could add vitality to the weakening world economy. The World Bank has forecast that global trade would drop this year, the first time since 1982.

Meanwhile, recent signs of rising protectionism are threatening to make matters worse. A recent World Bank report showed 17 of the Group of 20 (G20) countries have implemented 47 trade-restricting measures since November, when their leaders pledged to avoid raising trade barriers at the G20 summit in Washington.

Pascal Lamy, director-general of the World Trade Organization said in Canberra earlier this month that a meeting to finalize the Doha Round of negotiations could be held early in the summer, once the new US administration had established its trade policies and India holds general elections.

Chen also said the nation is prepared to further open up its service sectors, but only after the completion of the Doha Round.

G20 leaders are expected to pledge support for the Doha Round at the summit to be held in London on April 2.

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