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Monday, 17 September, 2001, 06:27 GMT 07:27 UK
China and WTO reach final accord
Shanghai stock exchange
China has waited 15 years for entry to the world body
The accord on China's entry into the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is due to be signed on Monday, clearing the way for Beijing to join within months.

The breakthrough in China's 15-year membership negotiations came late on Friday night, after a session which had been postponed because of the air attacks on New York.

The signing in Geneva will open the door for Taiwan's application for WTO membership to receive the same approval, as soon as Tuesday.

Chen Ruey-long, Taiwan's vice minister for economic affairs, said the working group overseeing of the two accession contracts will screen Taiwan's application on 18 September.

Equal footing

Beijing views Taiwan as a rebel province and its government as secessionist.

Chief Chinese negotiator Long Yongtu
China's negotiator agreed to postpone talks after US disasters

The rivals will have equal rights and status within the WTO, unlike in many other international bodies.

Nonetheless, analysts say the balance of forces inside the WTO will be irrevocably changed by the entry of China, the world's fifth largest trading power after the US, the European Union, Japan and Canada.

Western nations have been hoping China's membership - and the tariff cuts Beijing has agreed to bring it about - will bring a boost to the world economy.

China enjoyed double digit economic growth during much of the last decade and growth this year is forecast at about 7%, twice that of most industrialised countries.

Boosting growth

Data released on Monday showed China's government has moved to protect its economy from the risk of global economic slowdown.

Investment in fixed assets was worth 220bn yuan in August, a jump of 21.4% year-on-year, the State Statistical Bureau said.

"Growth of fixed asset investment in infrastructure, technical upgrading and real estate has all accelerated," the Bureau said.

Western China, which is the focus of a central government development drive, had greater increases than the coastal provinces.

In the first eight months of this year, investment in fixed assets rose 18.9% to 1,330bn yen ($161bn), with the biggest increases in spending on infrastructure and property

Final obstacles

After the entry package is signed on Monday, it will be rubber-stamped by a meeting of the WTO General Council, due in mid-October.

It will then go to the meeting of trade ministers from all WTO member countries which is scheduled for Qatar in November.

The talks last week reached agreement on the final hurdle - a complicated row involving the US and EU over China-based insurance companies, which accounted for just one paragraph in a treaty of more than 1,000 pages.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Hugh Pym
"Simpler, more direct access to China's consumers should follow"
See also:

15 Sep 01 | Business
Breakthrough in China-WTO talks
03 Jul 01 | Business
China-WTO major issues 'resolved'
16 Jul 01 | Business
China WTO talks face final issue
31 Jul 01 | Business
China lifts price controls
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