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Tuesday, 1 January, 2002, 02:38 GMT
Taiwan enters WTO
Consumers in Taiwan stock up on rice wine before prices rise
Consumers have been stocking up on local produce

Taiwan has officially entered the World Trade Organisation, only a few weeks after its giant neighbour China took the same path.

The island - which boasts the world's 14th largest trading economy - becomes the 144th member of the body that sets rules on international trade.

For a long time, the people of Taiwan have hoped to be accepted by the international community. The wish will soon come true

President Lu
Analysts say one of the most important consequences is likely to be a rapid increase in Taiwanese investment in China, with more Taiwanese companies setting up factories there.

They say consumers in Taiwan will benefit from cheaper imports, but that these could put many Taiwanese producers out of business, especially in the agricultural sector.

Customers have been stocking up on locally produced goods such as rice wine, widely used in Chinese cooking, which will jump from about $0 .60 for a 600ml bottle to $3.45 under amended tariff legislation.

Special train rides

Hundreds of dignitaries, including Vice President Annette Lu and former president Lee Teng-hui, are making train journeys to mark the occasion from capital Taipei and the southern city of Kaohsiung to meet in central Taichung on Tuesday.

"For a long time, the people of Taiwan have hoped to be accepted by the international community. The wish will soon come true," President Lu said on Monday.

Taiwan had to agree to amend legislation, lower import tariffs in some areas and improve access to its markets for foreign companies.

An understanding reached by WTO members in 1992 specified that that China would join first, which held up Taiwan's membership considerably.

Taiwan is not being treated as a country in its own right, because Beijing claims it as part of Chinese territory, but as a separate customs territory with different rules on importing goods.

See also:

11 Nov 01 | Business
Taiwan joins China in WTO
05 Nov 01 | Business
Taiwan's jobless nightmare
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