China's Membership In WTO Moves Closer To Reality

By John S. McClenahen Unless there are unexpected developments during the next several weeks, at their early-November meeting in Doha, Qatar, the 142 current members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) will approve an agreement giving China membership in the global body. Then, 30 days after China notifies the WTO of its acceptance of the agreement, presumably in early 2002, China will become the WTO's newest member. In an agreement nearly 15 years in the negotiation and some 900 pages in length, China, among other things, promises that foreign businesses will have rights to trade that are no less favorable than the rights Chinese companies have. China pledges to eliminate the practice of putting different prices on goods depending on whether they're for domestic sale or export. China says it will not use price controls to protect domestic industries. And China promises full protection of intellectual property rights from the day it officially becomes a WTO member. But when China becomes a WTO member, U.S. and other foreign businesses operating in the People's Republic won't suddenly be without restrictions. For example, the Chinese government will be able to control the buying and selling of cereals, tobacco, fuels, and minerals. And it will maintain some restrictions on the transportation and distribution of goods within China. What's more, while the average Chinese tariff on industrial goods will fall to 8.9%, some duties will be as high as 47%, with photographic film and automobiles being among the hardest hit.

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