China Bids to Keep Higher Industrial Tariffs

Wants to charge tariffs above the 23% level proposed for developing countries

China on April 14 sought to persuade the World Trade Organization to let it keep higher tariffs on industrial goods in any global trade deal, sparking fierce opposition from developed countries. China, which joined the WTO in 2001, wants to be able to charge tariffs above the 23% level proposed for developing countries, citing its status as a "recently acceded member," trade officials said.

Beijing is also seeking a 3-5 year grace period to implement tariff cuts rather than the 2 years currently proposed. Only Taiwan supports the Chinese move, officials said -- a rare show of unity between Beijing and Taipei.

The EU rejected the bid outright, with ambassador Eckart Guth denouncing it as "absolutely unacceptable" while the EU's trade deficit with China "increases by the hour," the officials said. Seven years after China joined the WTO, "there should be no talk about recently acceeded members," Guth added. His comments were echoed by U.S. ambassador Peter Allgeier. "This proposal is totally unacceptable and incompatible with what is expected from one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Doha Round," Allgeier said.

The Doha round of multilateral talks to reduce trade barriers, held under WTO auspices, was launched in the Qatari capital in November 2001 but has foundered ever since, principally in disputes between developed and developing countries. Developing nations are pressing for greater access for their agricultural products to industrialized markets. In return developed countries want a better deal for their industrial exports in the developing world.

With time running out before the US presidential elections in November, a ministerial meeting could be on the cards at the end of May in a bid to unblock the key dossiers of agriculture and industrial goods, trade sources said.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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