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Tuesday, 26 September, 2000, 16:53 GMT 17:53 UK
China's WTO entry one step away
Swiss and Chinese officials sign the WTO agreement in Geneva
The Chinese had to make concessions to the Swiss
By the BBC's Mark Gregory

China has overcome one of the last important obstacles to joining the World Trade Organisation (WTO) by signing a bilateral agreement on trade matters with Switzerland.

China has now signed individual trade agreements with 36 WTO member states, the most important being with the United States and the European Union. That accounts for all the major trading powers except Mexico.

Once a deal with Mexico is concluded, all China's deals with individual nations will be codified into a single mulilateral agreement which will set the terms for its trade with the 138 member nations of the WTO.


The rest of the world will be relieved that China's vast economy will at last be subject to the same rules as everyone else.

The prize for Beijing at the end of this grinding process is the prospect of influence over the body that regulates global commerce and a guarantee of entry to all important markets on favourable terms for Chinese exports.

Relief

The rest of the world will be relieved that China's vast and growing economy will at last be subject to the same rules as everyone else.

In recent months, China's entry to the WTO has often been portrayed as a foregone conclusion.

But in fact these latest negotiations with Switzerland had to overcome some difficult issues.

To get a deal Beijing had to grant licenses for three Swiss insurance companies to operate in its territory and a reduction in import duties on Swiss watches.

A final agreement in principle on China's entry to the WTO is expected early next year.

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