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China Makes it to The World Trade Organization

After 15 years of negotiations, China has gained entry into the WTO. It changes the way Beijing does business with the world.


Beijing's bid to join the WTO on a poster in China

China was officially accepted into the fold of the World Trade Organization (WTO), on Saturday ending its 15-year quest. The move brings a market of 1.3 billion people into the global trading system and changes the way Beijing does business with the world.

The decision was approved unanimously at the WTO's ministerial meeting in the Gulf state of Qatar. China’s formal entry into the WTO, expected by the middle of December, is predicted to boost economic reforms and open the huge Chinese market to the rest of the world.

Ministers from the big powers -the European Union and the United States among them, as well as from developing countries who face major competition from cheaper Chinese goods, hailed the move at a special session of the conference.

North-South Divide

In its first address to the delegates as a member of the WTO, China defended the positions of the nations of the developing South, though without pitting them against the industrialized North.

The Ministerial Conference, which opened Friday and ends Tuesday, Nov 13, is dominated by a large North-South divide, particularly on issues such as farm subsidies and patent rights on pharmaceuticals that are crucial for public health in poor countries including drugs for treating AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria.

The chief of the Chinese delegation to the Qatar meet, Trade Minister Shi Guangsheng, said that only ''by adapting itself to the developments and changes of the world economy and fully reflecting the interests and requirements of all parties, including developing countries, can the multilateral trading system maintain its vigor and vitality.''

The Chinese diplomat stated that the admission of his country into the WTO would have ''widespread and far-reaching impacts'' on China's economy and on the world economy.

He also announced China's support for launching a new round of multilateral negotiations aimed at further liberalization of the world economy, an objective mainly promoted by the European Union and the United States, and widely objected to by developing countries.

Not just Bright Prospects

But things will not all be rosy for China after its admittance to the WTO. The likely economic consequences of its entry into the WTO remain uncertain because it will depend on how the expected changes are carried out, particularly in measures related to greater transparency and the dominance of law, say WTO experts.

But nevertheless the WTO itself predicts that for the next few years there will be immense pressure on China's labor market and that problems will arise in income distribution for the population of 1.3 billion, as has occurred in many developing economies that have applied strict structural adjustment measures.

Chinese workers might also face a massive wave of layoffs.

Even the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says that the prospects for China as a consequence of its new WTO membership are not all promising. It predicts that China's accession to the WTO will initially have a negative and limiting effect on the economy.

China Entry Bolsters WTO

The incorporation of China to the ranks of the more than 140 nations that make up the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has boosted the Ministerial Conference under way in the Qatari capital of Doha, the success of which is considered crucial for the international entity's future.

The admission of the new member was the first good news in several years for the WTO, whose third ministerial conference, held two years ago in the US city of Seattle, was considered a fiasco because no new accords were reached.

It has also increasingly been the target of heavy criticism from most developing countries and from the anti-globalization movement.