Tuesday, November 16, 1999 Published at 17:58 GMT
WTO: China comes in from the cold
The Chinese press has celebrated the breakthrough
The Chinese press on Tuesday was jubilant after the signing of an agreement between China and the USA on Monday which is expected to pave the way for Beijing's entry into the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
The front pages of the Beijing-based press all led on the deal with numerous photos of Chinese President Jiang Zemin shaking hands with US negotiator Charlene Barshefsky.
Headlines included "Signed! Sino-US agreement on WTO" in the `Beijing Youth Daily' while the `China Youth Daily' reminded readers of the country's 13 year pursuit of access to the Geneva-based organisation: "President Jiang says where there's a will, there' s a way." Chinese statesmen were also enthusiastic about the agreement with Jiang praising the work of negotiators in reaching the deal.
A 'win-win' pact
According to the official Communist Party mouthpiece, `People's Daily', Jiang said the agreement was of " great realistic and historic significance" and Foreign Trade Minister Shi Guangsheng, who signed the deal, described it as a "win-win" pact satisfactory to both sides.
Hong Kong also followed suit with Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa saying the deal would benefit global trade as well as provide new business opportunities for the territory.
Hong Kong Financial Secretary Donald Tsang said the move signified a recognition of China's future potential.
"It is important in the light of China being one of the large trading nations which is likely to be a new force in global trade in a new century," Tsang told Hong Kong radio.
Japan points to new trade talks
Japanese reaction was positive, with Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi hailing Beijing's success.
Describing China's participation in the WTO as "desirable", he told the Japanese news agency, Kyodo: "I am certainly glad." Finance Minister Kiichi Miyazawa said the accord would have an impact on all members of the world trade watchdog, who would be able to enjoy preferential trade measures agreed between Beijing and Washington.
"Without China, a soon-to-be launched round of global trade talks sponsored by the WTO would produce totally different results," he said, according to Kyodo.
International bodies such as the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the United Nations echoed Tokyo's response, saying that Chinese participation in the WTO would help make the trade system truly global.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who is currently in Beijing, said: "This is a major step towards the culmination of China's long-standing efforts to resume its rightful role in the multilateral trading system and to the achievement of universality of the system itself."
However, not all countries in the region were happy with the agreement.
The South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry initially welcomed the news, saying it hoped that China would soon become a full WTO member.
"We hope that China will conclude negotiations with other WTO member nations for its entry into the WTO as soon as possible and participate in the forthcoming new round of talks as a regular WTO member," the spokesman said, according to the South Korean news agency Yonhap.
South Korean trade experts, however, differed with the government's point of view, warning that Seoul's competitiveness at home and abroad was likely to be damaged in the long run.
The Korea International Trade Association predicted that exports from China to Korea would increase more than those from Korea to China and said Korean industry could be hurt by a flood of low-priced consumer imports from China.
China's admission to the WTO could threaten Korea's competitiveness, with many countries likely to lift trade barriers against China, Yonhap agency said.
The Daewoo Economic Research Institute also forecast that Korea's share in the US market would fall in 2002, while the Samsung economic research institute predicted that China's trade balance with the United States would improve by 3.1bn dollars a year following WTO entry.
Taiwan hopes for its own WTO deal
Taiwan too looked at its own prospects in the light of the deal.
Economics Minister Wang Chih-kang said the long-awaited breakthrough for China would improve Taiwan's chances of WTO entry, while Finance Minister Paul Chiu said that although the country would lose billions of dollars in tariffs in the first four years after China's entry to the WTO, international trade and the globalisation of Taiwanese firms would benefit.
The country's top WTO negotiator, Lin Yi-Fu, gave a more forthright response, saying that Taipei wanted to join the organisation as soon as next spring and hoped to meet WTO officials next month.
He pointed out that Taiwan had completed all its bilateral talks on WTO entry.
"Since there is a tacit understanding among WTO members that Taiwan should not be granted membership before mainland China, as has been demanded by Beijing, the mainland's accession negotiation process affects Taiwan's application," he told the Taiwanese news agency CNA.
Premier Vincent Siew, hinting at the long-standing political tensions between Taiwan and mainland China, said that the development could be seen as reducing Chinese pressure against Taipei's entry to the organisation.
BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.