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US chamber to assess changes in post-WTO China
( 2004-02-04 23:05) (China Daily)

The US Chamber of Commerce will lead a business mission to Beijing and Shanghai from February 9-11 to assess what changes have taken place in China two years after the nation joined the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Led by Dan Christman, the US chamber's senior vice-president for international affairs, the group will also include 15 senior executives from leading US companies such as Ford, GM, Amway, Avon, FedEx, and New York Life International.

"They will be there (Beijing and Shanghai) to see what happened in the past two years and the progress in China's opening," said Della Lo, the chamber's senior representative in Asia who is based in Hong Kong.

She said that the chamber and its members, who worked diligently to push China's entry into the WTO, have been watching the results of the entry closely.

"China's WTO membership is significantly important to US companies," Lo told China Daily yesterday. "All the companies want to see how the opening is going on in their sectors and what the changes are in their fields."

The chamber had planned the five-day trip last year but delayed the plan due to the outbreak of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in China.

The mission will meet with top Chinese leaders and senior officials from the Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and National People's Congress.

On Monday, there will be a round table meeting between the mission and officials from related ministries. The meeting is being arranged by the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade.

The executives will also take part in interactive forums with Chinese corporations in Beijing and Shanghai (February 12-13), and exchange views with key leaders from the Shanghai municipal government and officials from the Shanghai WTO Affairs Consultation Centre.

Lo also revealed that the delegation is hoping to receive new commitments from the Chinese Government to further open the economy and make additional efforts in implementing WTO commitments.

In September 2002, the US Chamber of Commerce, the world's largest business federation representing nearly three million companies, released a report on the progress of China's fulfillment of WTO commitments."China has taken some positive steps in this field which deserves recognition," the report read. But it also claimed the nation needed to do more in certain areas.

Lo said whether a report will be issued following this trip is unclear. "It will depend on whether the trip is fruitful or not," she said.

In fact, China's major trading partners, including the United States and European Union, have given positive feedback on China's WTO commitments in the past two years. But foreign companies eager to enter the potentially vast Chinese market hope the nation's economy can open wider and faster.

There have also been hopes from other WTO members for more efforts in areas such as protection of intellectual property rights and the distribution of goods in the domestic market.

Officials from the Ministry of Commerce insist that China has "seriously" stood by its commitments to the WTO while veteran WTO experts also believe that China has done all that it should have done.

China has repealed a total of 2,300 laws and regulations that were deemed non-compatible with WTO requirements. Meanwhile, it has introduced new laws and is revising others to facilitate the opening of its markets.

The country is also making rapid progress in opening its banking, insurance and foreign trade sectors to foreign participation.

"China is still in its WTO transitional period," said Tong Zhiguang, China's chief trade negotiator between 1991 and 1993 and now chairman of the China Society for WTO Studies. "The promises we made cannot be realized in only one step."

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