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GATT Chief Calls For Chinese Membership

THE director-general of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) has added his voice to the growing call for China to rejoin the world trade community.

Peter Sutherland on May 10 called for talks on China's membership, stalled by opposition from the United States and the European Community, to resume immediately, according to the New China News Agency, the official Chinese wire service. The Americans and Europeans are demanding more access to the Chinese market and better patent and other legal protections.

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The wire service said Mr. Sutherland made the remarks after arriving for an economic conference this week in China. He was quoted as saying that although discussions had hit roadblocks, ``We are very anxious that the negotiation process should be pursued speedily, constructively, and with a view to finding solutions to any difficulties that may remain.''

Sutherland said it is better to have China, the world's 11th largest economy, inside the world trade system than outside.

Recently, pressure has been building to speed up a decision on Beijing's application. China left GATT in 1950 after its communist government came to power, but it applied to rejoin in 1986. Beijing has made membership in GATT and the World Trade Organization (WTO), which will succeed GATT next year, a top priority. Rejoining will signal acceptance of China's market reform program and a formal end to isolation following the 1989 crackdown on democracy demonstrators.

But the US and some European countries are holding out for more trade concessions and access to China's market before lifting their opposition. How China's reentry into GATT will affect the US weapon of most-favored-nation status, now pending renewal next month, remains murky, Western diplomats say. Under GATT rules, the US would have to accord MFN status to all members. ``Washington fears losing its trade discretion and control over MFN in dealing with China,'' says a European diplomat.

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