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Hope for consensus at WTO talks in Hong Kong
By Dai Yan (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-12-06 06:13

China hopes that the upcoming World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting to be held in Hong Kong this month will act as a platform to reach a consensus on certain trade issues.

China will try its best to make the meeting a successful one, said Zhang Xiangchen, director of the Department for WTO Affairs under the Ministry of Commerce, hoping the sixth WTO ministerial conference to be held in Hong Kong will achieve substantive progress.

China will send a large delegation to the meeting led by Minister of Commerce Bo Xilai, and escorted by the Minister of Agriculture Du Qinglin, the ambassador to the WTO Sun Zhenyu and Vice-Minister of Commerce Yi Xiaozhun.

"We hope that at the Hong Kong meeting we will make some progress in early harvest, if a comprehensive one can not be obtained," said Zhang in Beijing yesterday.

Under the early harvest programme, special treatment and flexibility should be given to developing countries in order to encourage them to continue with negotiations, Zhang added.

The Doha round of talks, the main agenda of the upcoming meeting, or the Doha Development Agenda (DDA), is important to the multilateral trading system because it puts development at the centre with the willingness to negotiate sensitive issues such as agricultural trade, critical for developing countries to access global markets.

"Development is the theme of the Doha round of talks, which should solve the problems concerning developing countries, giving them the special treatment," Zhang said.

And special treatment should also be granted to recently joined WTO members, which have already opened their markets and are unable to offer more, Zhang added.

The Hong Kong ministerial conference, scheduled for December 13 to 18, is considered to be a critical benchmark for the Doha round of negotiations, which are hoped to be complete by the end of 2006.

But expectations for the outcome of the meeting have been lowered because there are still indifferences among WTO members on issues like agriculture.

And many informal meetings held between ministers over the past months have not been able to bridge these differences.

"We should maintain the momentum of the negotiations, rather than lower the ambitious target set by the Doha talks," said Zhang.

Agricultural trade is the main sticking point in the current round of talks, where trading partners like the EU and Japan are unwilling to substantially cut their support to local agricultural producers.

Zhang said that China believes all kinds of export subsidies in developed countries should be eliminated by 2010.

"These countries with higher tariffs and high subsidies should make more effort in this regard," Zhang said.

A World Bank report put the global gain of full trade liberalization at around US$300 billion by 2015.

And around 60 per cent of these gains will result from the liberalization of agricultural markets in both high-income nations and developing nations.

(China Daily 12/06/2005 page9)

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