China calls for 2011 end to Doha talks

Updated: 2010-12-09 09:12

By Ding Qingfen and Bao Chang (China Daily)

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China calls for 2011 end to Doha talks

Exhibitors promote their products at the seventh China-ASEAN Expo in Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, in October. Trade between China and ASEAN surged after a free-trade agreement took effect on Jan 1. [Photo/China Daily]

Stalled WTO negotiations should reach conclusion by late next year

BEIJING - Despite global pessimism about the stagnation of the Doha Round of talks of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Chinese Ministry of Commerce has appealed for their conclusion in 2011.

The ministry has also called for global politicians to show stronger political willpower to promote progress in the talks, which have been ongoing for nine years.

"Although we believe there are a number of difficulties in the forthcoming negotiations, none of us should swing back and forth, or even draw back," said Yi Xiaozhun, vice-minister of commerce, on Wednesday.

"Leaders of the member nations (of the WTO) should demonstrate a greater willingness to accelerate the process of the talks, by setting a target for them to be concluded by the end of 2011," said Yi.

While the Doha Round has been at a deadlock for two years, nations worldwide have signed a raft of regional and bilateral free-trade agreements (FTAs) designed to rescue their economies in the wake of the financial crisis.

But Yi said China gives priority to multilateral trade agreements and to the advancement of the Doha talks, even though the nation has also been actively participating in regional FTAs.

"The significance of regional FTAs can never be compared with that of the multilateral agreements that can be universally applied. China's principle in trade liberalization is prioritizing the multilateral agreements which the regional agreements complement," Yi said.

The Doha talks - launched in late 2001 with the aim of opening up world trade and investment and helping developing countries to prosper - have now been stalled for two years.

That's because some nations, including the United States and India, cannot reach a consensus on a number of specific issues, including agricultural policy.

However, the WTO said 80 percent of the Doha agenda has been completed.

During both the G20 meeting in Seoul, and November's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Tokyo, national leaders agreed to conclude the Doha talks, and see 2011 as a window of opportunity.

The US and the European Union (EU) also promised to use their considerable economic muscle to secure a successful, ambitious and balanced conclusion to the talks within that timeframe.

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But few participants have high hopes when it comes to achieving this target. "The likelihood that the talks can be concluded in such a short time is small, as the motives of the major economies, including the US and the EU, are not powerful enough. Economic recovery is their priority during the coming year," said Zhang Yunling, director of the Division of International Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Aware of the difficulties in getting more than 150 nations to agree on deals covering a wide range of topics, many are resorting to deals between two countries, or small groups of nations.

During November's APEC summit the possibility of a Trans-Pacific Partnership was hotly debated. The partnership was originally proposed by four nations, including Singapore, but was expected to expand to include others such as the US and Australia.

"China will actively advance the FTA strategy to promote the integration of the Asian economies," said Yi.

China has signed 10 FTAs including those with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Pakistan and Peru, and the nation is also in negotiations over four more deals. The Ministry of Commerce estimates that 24 percent of China's foreign trade in 2009 was realized through these FTAs.



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