Thailand, China Sign WTO Deal

China and Thailand clinched a bilateral trade agreement on China's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) yesterday in Beijing, removing another obstacle to China's 14-year pursuit of membership of the global trade body.

"The agreement not only is testimony to our long-standing relationship but signals the emergence of China's economy as part of the world economy," Thai Deputy Prime Minister Supachai Panitchpakdi said after signing the agreement with Chinese Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Co-operation Shi Guangsheng.

The accord reduced to 11 the number of countries or trading blocs with which China has yet to conclude negotiations on WTO entry.

Shi told reporters after the signing ceremony that he is expecting to meet the European Union (EU) Foreign Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy in the last week of this month to conclude the Sino-EU bilateral WTO negotiation.

The EU is by far the largest of China's partners who have yet to conclude a bilateral trade deal necessary for China to enter the WTO.

"After the two rounds of talks in Brussels and Beijing, we have made important progress," Shi said.

He said he is full of confidence that the two trade partners can find a way that both sides can accept in the forthcoming negotiation.

China has seen its WTO negotiation process remarkably accelerated after it hammered out a landmark agreement with the United States in November last year.

Apart from Thailand, China also wrapped up a trade deal with India in Beijing in late February and completed WTO talks with Colombia on Tuesday in Bogota.

"We have entered the final phase for bilateral WTO negotiations and it won't be long before China's final accession to the WTO," Shi said.

Supachai said he strongly supports China's entry into the WTO before the initiation of the new round of WTO negotiations.

"It is indeed significant that China might become a member before a new round is launched," he said.

"China's membership of WTO will bring about more equality in the allocation of resources between WTO member countries," he added.

Supachai is scheduled to take over from Mike Moore as WTO director general in 2002, as part of a deal ending months of bitter leadership battles that carved deep divides in the world trade body.

Shi said China will co-operate well with other WTO members and support the work of the WTO Secretariat after it formally joins the international trade group.

"China will play a positive and constructive role in the next round of multilateral negotiations," he said.

(Source: CIEC)

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