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China to play bigger role in WTO talks
By Liu Weiling and Dai Yan (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-12-14 06:20

Minister of Commerce Bo Xilai said Tuesday that he expects the sixth WTO ministerial meeting to achieve progress in bringing more benefits to developing countries, adding that China was ready to make a mark in framing global trade rules.

Development is the theme of the Doha round of talks, and all members have reached a consensus on that, Bo told China Daily after a bilateral meeting with Celso Amorim, Brazilian Minister of State for External Relations.

Commerce Minister Bo Xilai speaks to reporters on the sidelines of the sixth WTO ministerial meeting in Hong Kong, December 13, 2005. [Xinhua]

As the biggest developing country, China's major aim is to protect the interests of developing countries while pushing for progress, said Bo, adding the country was well prepared for tough negotiations.

"We are aware of the importance of making world trade rules and we will cherish this historic opportunity," Bo said.

Failure of the Hong Kong meeting could mean an impasse in global free trade and result in revival of protectionism, which could be disastrous to China's export-oriented economy, said the minister.

As a major beneficiary of the WTO, China is being pushed to play a larger role in the talks and act as a bridge between developing and developed countries, he said.

The minister said China needs to defend the interests of its 600 million farmers. While China's tariffs on farm produce imports are 15.3 per cent, compared to the world average of 62 per cent, the country also has a competitive edge in some industrial products and wants to have wider market access to other WTO economies, he said.

As a member of the G20, established to represent developing nations in WTO talks, China asserts that industrialized nations should do more than poorer nations to cut trade barriers. The group includes developing countries such as India, Brazil, South Africa and Argentina.

Besides the meeting with Amorim, Bo also held talks with India's Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath late yesterday. Both countries are playing leading roles in the G20, pushing developed nations, in particular, the US and the European Union, to make concessions on agricultural issues.

Amorim said at a press conference yesterday that agriculture is the key to the Doha Round.

"We all want to take a step forward here in Hong Kong," he said.

Nath said developing countries are seeking clear milestones and targets.

"Without specificity, there can be no agreement in export competition. Similarly in domestic support, we want to see specificity before we talk of tariff cuts," he said, adding that the EU must move forward.

WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy said at a press conference yesterday China is playing an active role in the WTO.

"China has a profile in the WTO and I see this member in trade negotiation committees and in various regional (trade) groupings,"

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