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Special care for least developed urged
By Liu Dai (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-12-17 07:12

HONG KONG: The Chinese delegation to the sixth WTO ministerial meeting touched on details for the first time on its long requested special treatment to new WTO members, the Ministry of Commerce said on Friday.

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

It made a proposal that as a new member, China should have a coefficient higher than other developing countries on the issue of non-agriculture market access (NAMA).

During the latest round of talks, WTO members agreed to apply a so-called "Swiss formula" when calculating tariff reduction in the NAMA.

China and other developing countries agreed with the Swiss formula with two coefficients which are the parts of the formula that determine how deeply tariffs are cut with one for developed and another for developing country members.

The number in the coefficient will be the maximum level of tariff after the tariff-cutting exercise. Thus, the lower the coefficient, the lower the cap placed on tariffs will be.

"Besides the coefficient, the new members should be granted flexibilities to offer less or no tariff reduction on some products," the ministry said.

Meanwhile, China reiterated on Friday special treatment must be given to the least developed countries (LDCs) at the Hong Kong meeting.

The granting of duty-free and quota-free access to imports from the LDCs is a kind of political promise of developed countries, the delegation said.

But when giving the provision, the developing countries should have some flexibility compared to developed economies.

Progress in market access to the LDCs was the biggest achievement made in the WTO meeting on Friday.

Members have reached an initial agreement on granting duty-free and quota-free market access to LDCs, although a final statement is still in the pipeline due to different opinions in areas such as product coverage.

Another encouraging step was that for the first time in the WTO, a ministerial meeting was held on Friday between all the developing country groups, including the G20, G33, the ACP (Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States) and the LDCs.

A statement from the groups said they hoped talks would result in the removal of the distortions that inhibit the export growth of developing countries.

Negotiators failed to achieve measurable progress on Friday in key areas of agricultural export subsidy and non-agricultural market access. "There are no breakthroughs, but no breakdown either," said WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell.

With less than 48 hours left to finalize the meeting, they were cautious in making predictions on what will be achieved on Sunday.

(China Daily 12/17/2005 page2)

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