World Trade Organization grants approval to membership of China

Sunday, November 11, 2001

DOHA, Qatar -- The World Trade Organization formally invited the world's most populous country, China, to join on Saturday, bringing the once-isolated communist country -- and its 1.2 billion consumers -- firmly into the global marketplace.

Trade ministers from almost all the WTO's 142 members unanimously approved China's application for membership, after more 15 years of negotiations.

Addressing the meeting afterward, Chinese Trade Minister Shi Guangsheng said his country will "abide by WTO rules and honor its commitments while enjoying its rights."

He added that China supported the WTO's plan to launch a new round of trade liberalization negotiations "on the basis of full consideration of the interests and reasonable requests of developing countries."

Taiwan, too

On Sunday members are expected to admit China's neighbor, Taiwan.

"I believe that as this century unfolds and people look back on this day, they will conclude that in admitting China to the WTO we took a decisive step in strengthening the global economic trading system," U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said.

He said he believed China could only win from joining the WTO and praised the "incredible entrepreneurial dynamism of the Chinese people."

China first applied to join the WTO's predecessor, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, in 1986. Since then it has been negotiating terms of membership with its major trading partners and changing national and local laws to comply with WTO rules.

After a fraught final two years of talks, WTO negotiators finally approved the deal in Geneva in September.

China has made giant strides in opening its markets to become a major player in world trade, and the membership agreement commits it to continue dropping trade barriers over the next few years.

Its membership in the WTO means it will have to open its markets to goods and services from other WTO members, but will also increase its export opportunities -- a situation that its Asian neighbors especially regard with some apprehension.

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