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China Will Join WTO - 2001-09-18

After 15 years of tough, often acrimonious negotiations, World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiators have formally agreed to allow China to join the WTO. China's formal entry into the WTO is expected to be approved at a ministerial meeting in Qatar in November.

There were congratulations all around after the World Trade Organization's 142 members gave China's membership the formal go-ahead. China's chief negotiator, Long Yongtu called the decision an historical event and said he was very pleased and satisfied with the outcome.

"China's accession has a major mark, a major feature of a win-win, an all-win for China as well as for the rest of the world," he said. "The 15 years negotiation is a long and arduous process, but in the perspective of China's 5,000 year history, it is only a blink of the eyes."

China applied to join the WTO's predecessor, called GATT, in 1986. But the process was slowed considerably after the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing.

China has one-quarter of the world's population and is the world's fifth largest economy. Its entry into the World Trade Organization is expected to have far-reaching implications.

As a member of the WTO, China will be subject to international trading rules. Mr. Long said this does not worry him. He said he believes China's inclusion into the world trading body will accelerate his country's economic reforms toward a market economy.

"This is a good for us because in every sector of industry, including the agricultural sectors without real competition, there will be no competitive industry in that particular sector," he said. "I think the accession of China will be most welcome in China and will become the second biggest news this year following the successful bidding of the 2008 Olympic games."

WTO Director-General, Mike Moore called China's integration into the world trading body a defining moment in the history of the WTO. He said it was a defining moment in the cooperation among nations.

"The world will become a more competitive place and I believe that is a good thing, he said. "China is already a great exporter, a very competitive exporter and China now will be coming under disciplines and rules that we have all agreed to and that is also a good thing. I think this is a time of enormous celebration that we are working together on universal and more common rules and that has to be a good thing."

In a poignant moment, Jeffrey Bader the chief U.S. negotiator told the WTO that despite the devastating terrorist attack in his country and at a time of profound national sorrow, America would not neglect its other interests.

The European Trade Commissioner, Pascal Lamy said China's admission to the WTO provided a much needed boost in confidence and hope for the future.