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China Hails WTO Membership

Beijing is hailing a World Trade Organization agreement to admit China to the global trade body. China's membership, which took 15 years to negotiate, will bring down market barriers and open up trade with the world's most populous country.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhu Bangzao said Monday's approval of China's entry into the World Trade Organization, after a 15 years of talks, is "very good news." Mr. Zhu told reporters in Beijing Tuesday that WTO membership will greatly promote China's modernization, economic development and will benefit all other WTO members.

A working party for the 142-member WTO in Geneva agreed Monday to the final terms of China's entry. WTO trade ministers are expected to adopt the deal at their next round of talks, scheduled for November in Qatar.

The agreement on Beijing's entry still needs to be approved by China's legislature, but formal membership is scheduled for early next year. Mr. Zhu said China's membership is an important strategic goal in the building of the country's socialist market economy. He said China is committed to fulfilling all of its market-opening commitments.

Some of the changes China has promised to make under the agreement include: cutting import tariffs on cars from 100 percent today to 25 percent in five years; cutting duties on agricultural imports and capping subsidies to farmers; allowing foreign insurance companies to own a hundred percent of certain operations; and permitting foreign banks to conduct domestic currency business with Chinese companies in two years.

Chinese leaders expect that WTO entry will step up the pressure on inefficient state firms to reform, and increase foreign investment in the country. But foreign competition is also likely to cause much higher unemployment, as state firms lay off millions of workers.