Statement by Mr Bo Xilai, Minister of Commerce at 6th WTO Ministerial Conference at Hong Kong, China
It is my pleasure to attend this Ministerial Conference. I thank the Hong Kong SAR Government and the WTO Secretariat for their great efforts in organizing and preparing this event.
During the Uruguay Round, GATT Members had worked very hard to bring it to a conclusion. However, the outcome of that Round turned out to be somewhat disappointing, in the sense that the imbalance in the world economy had not been addressed effectively, and the problem of polarization was getting increasingly serious. As a result, developing countries have been complaining a lot, and the developed ones have been feeling the heat. This is perhaps the primary reason why the current round of multilateral trade negotiations is named "Doha Development Agenda" or Doha Round. This represents a major step forward in the history of the WTO. This is also a wise and visionary choice by the WTO Members. If the objectives of development can be realized through this Round, then countries, no matter rich or poor, would benefit from an environment favourable to sustainable development and peoples of different countries would be able to co-exist in a world of greater harmony. On the other hand, if the theme of development were an empty slogan, the negotiations would become meaningless and lack momentum. If that is the case, the WTO may risk further erosion of its credibility.
China would support a balanced outcome of the Doha Round. To us, it does not mean a self-balance and trade-off between the offensive and defensive interests of a particular developed country itself. Rather, it must be conducive to the achievement of overall balance for developing countries as a whole. As a matter of fact, there already exists a serious imbalance in terms of the general levels of development between the rich nations and the poor ones, with negative impact on the overall economic development of the whole world. To address this imbalance, developed countries must do more in this Round and must be willing to consider sufficient policy space for developing countries.
Agriculture is the centrepiece of the Doha Round negotiations. Although both developed and developing countries are faced with pressures, the nature of their difficulties is very different. Of the 2.6 billion farming population in the world, 2.5 billion reside in the developing countries, and the majority of them are living below poverty lines. Even if some developing countries were willing to embark on the road of trade liberalization, they would have to take into account the basic livelihood of millions or even billions of their farmers. To expose those poor farmers to further external shocks could trigger disastrous consequences. Should such scenario occur, the lifestyle of the rich countries would be endangered, too. It is therefore sensible to offer duty-free, quota-free treatment to products from the least developed countries immediately. Developing countries should also be entitled to the concepts of "Special Products" and "Special Safeguard Mechanism". In the process of promoting world trade liberalization, it is crucial to bear in mind the interests of the majority and to enable them to adapt to the pace of progress. Hence the necessity of providing meaningful special and differential treatment to all developing countries. It is advisable to reach consensus during the Hong Kong conference on issues like cotton, etc, so that there could be some "Early Harvest" for developing countries. Such visible and tangible benefits could boost the confidence of most Members in the ongoing Doha Round negotiations.
China is firmly opposed to any attempt of sub-categorizing developing Members. Big developing nations such as Brazil, India, Indonesia, Egypt, South Africa, Mexico, Argentina and China are still under tremendous pressures along the course of their development, and they are the ones who are shouldering the burden of feeding the majority of the world's population.
Ten years have passed since the conclusion of the Uruguay Round. Now it is time for development countries to make up their minds. The farming population in developed countries accounts for less that 4 per cent of the world's total, and given their strong financial muscles, developed countries are fully capable of taking good care of their own farmers after the elimination of subsidies and further tariff reductions. We firmly support the elimination of all kinds of export subsidies by developed Members, who should commit themselves to completing this job by 2010 in good faith. We stand for significant reduction of trade-distorting domestic supports by developed countries.
On NAMA negotiations, China supports the idea of a Swiss formula with dual coefficients, as long as the distance between the two coefficients is wide enough, and at the same time, other flexibilities as provided for developing countries should remain intact.
To facilitate greater participation of developing Members in global trade in services, special attention should be paid to the sectors of particular concern or export interest to developing countries during the service negotiations.
As the biggest victim of abused anti-dumping measures, China supports further clarification and improvement of the existing disciplines for rules covering anti-dumping and other relevant areas, in order to prevent effectively abuses of anti-dumping measures and strengthen transparency. We are opposed to the new tendencies of trade protectionism in some developed countries.
I want to say a few more words for the 1.3 billion people in China. It had taken China 15 years to complete the negotiations of its accession to the WTO, which entailed extensive commitments and significant contributions to the multilateral trading system. As a result, our average tariff level for industrial products has dropped to 9 per cent this year from the pre-accession level of 42.9 per cent, whereas our average tariff level for agricultural products now stands at only 15.3 per cent as compared to the pre-accession level of 54 per cent. However, the world average tariff for farm products now is as high as 62 per cent. Throughout the history of the WTO, no other Members have made such huge cuts during such a short period of time, not even any developed Member! In the area of services, our commitments for liberalization have covered 100 sectors and subsectors, pretty close to the rate of coverage for developed Members. However, China is still a genuine developing country, with a farming population of 740 million. Per capita GDP in China was only US$1,200 last year. Over the past two decades, the Chinese Government has been doing its utmost in reducing poverty, to the effect that over 200 million people have now been lifted out of poverty. Yet by the World Bank criteria, nearly 200 million people in China are still living on less than US$1 a day. Besides, there are some 60 million disabled people in need of care in China. For reasons cited above, the particular concerns of China as a recently acceded Member of the WTO must be effectively addressed during the DDA negotiations. Special and differential treatment should be earnestly accorded to recently acceded Members like China in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Doha Work Programme, known as the July 2004 Framework.
Despite those difficulties, as a responsible nation, China is prepared to make appropriate contributions in the current round of negotiations. Let me emphasize that because our applied rates and bound tariffs are at the same level, any reduction commitment we make would be substantive and a real cut.
Although it is faced with many difficulties, China is contributing a lot to the world economy. In 2001, China imported goods worth US$240 billion. And this year, China is expected to spend US$600 billion on imports of foreign goods. China is emerging as a huge new market for the rest of the world. The Chinese Government has already decided to write off the debts owed to it as of the end of last year by those heavily indebted poor countries. As the Minister of Commerce of China, I am deeply proud of my country, particularly its courage to open up and its spirit of self-sacrifice.
In the name of the Chinese Government, I would also like to use this opportunity to extend our warm welcome to Saudi Arabia and Tonga to the World Trade Organization. I urge the Members concerned to conclude their negotiations with nations like Russia, Viet Nam, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and so on as quickly as possible. They are playing important and positive roles in the world economy and trade. Their accession to the WTO would further enhance the representativeness of the multilateral trading system.
The Chinese President HU Jintao recently called for all the parties concerned to demonstrate greater political will, show necessary flexibilities, work harder to move the negotiations under DDA forward and try to make substantive progress during the Hong Kong WTO Ministerial Conference. This is the position and expectations of China. I have been to Hong Kong several times, but have never seen so many ministers gather together from so many places. Hong Kong is a clean, dynamic city with green mountains and blue waters. Life here is widely recognized as comfortable and convenience in the absence of traffic jams and with first-class food. It has been rated the World's Freest Economy for 11 consecutive years. I believe we should all work hard to try to repay the warm hospitalities of Hong Kong by making real progress and wise decisions for the ongoing DDA negotiations in the interest of peoples all over the world.