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WTO Chief: China's Entry a Defining Moment - 2001-11-29

The World Trade Organization's director general says China's entry into the World Trade Organization was a defining moment for Asia. Speaking in Hong Kong, Mike Moore said the action, which took place at the WTO meeting earlier this month in Doha, will have long-lasting effects on world trade.

The World Trade Organization chief says as a result of its entry into WTO, China is now committed to developing a modern legal system and at the same time has obtained secure markets for its exports. Mike Moore adds having China's huge economy and growing economic might in the WTO will change the outlook for international trade. "It would have been worth going to Doha just to have China as a member," he said. "This changes the world, this changes everything."

Mr. Moore, who spoke at Hong Kong's Foreign Correspondents Club, warned Beijing may face tough challenges as it makes economic changes to meet membership requirements. And, Mr. Moore said, China may initially be uncomfortable with the body's system for settling disputes. But he says he is convinced Beijing will do the work needed, because it wants to be a fully engaged member of the world community. "I believe the Chinese leadership wants this thing to work," said Mike Moore. "The first dispute will be interesting, but the whole world will be watching."

Mr. Moore said the WTO's meeting earlier this month in Doha will eventually bring major changes to world trade. For the first time, developing countries in the WTO were unified in pressing their key concerns, such as access to medicines.

Perhaps even more significant, Mr. Moore said, is that the members committed the WTO to talks on eliminating farm subsidies. Agriculture subsidies by the big members, the United States and the European Union, have long been an irritant in the developing world. Mr. Moore said phasing them out would dramatically improve farm exports for some poor nations, while making food imports cheaper for other countries.

Mr. Moore said the WTO now is working on helping Russia join. Mr. Moore said the Russian government understands what needs to be done to prepare for membership and that it could enter as early as 2003. But, he said, the timing depends on how quickly individual WTO members complete their negotiations with Moscow.