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Thursday, 9 november 2000
Formal Working Party on the accession of China

Opening remarks by Chairperson WTO Deputy Director-General Paul-Henri Ravier(1)

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1. I have pleasure in convening this formal session of the Working Party on China's accession to the WTO. I am sure you have all received the convening notice setting out our agenda.

2. I will shortly be giving the floor to delegations who wish to offer views and suggestions. We will, of course, benefit particularly from Mr. Long's own assessment of where matters now stand, and how China sees the accession process going forward.

3. But before opening the floor, I would like, with your permission, to share my own views on these matters as seen from the overall perspective of the chair. In so doing, I will try to cover both items on our agenda today. The two, in any case, are closely inter-related and should be addressed together.

4. First, our review of progress in finalizing China's market access schedules in goods and services. Here the good news is that it is clear China is accelerating efforts to conclude all its outstanding negotiations. Even this week we have been informed of new concluded bilaterals, i.e. those with Bolivia, Costa Rica and Venezuela. However, I must stress that many substantive, verification and technical gaps still need to be filled. The Secretariat is advancing work as best it can in finalizing the schedules, but we need your help and specific inputs. You all know the inputs involved. I need not say more. This matter requires priority attention by China and members concerned.

5. As to the outstanding multilateral issues, the momentum we have generated towards concluding this accession rapidly can be clearly seen. This momentum has been specific and concrete in terms of textual breakthroughs in central subjects like transitional review mechanism; judicial review, uniform administration and transparency; and tariff-rate quota administration. Furthermore, the progress made in my “testing process” in other areas such as quantitative import restrictions; technical barriers to trade; agricultural policy; and TRIPS, has been substantial enough for me to say today that we can expect similar textual breakthroughs soon and, in any case, before we meet next. The Secretariat will, of course, circulate these texts to all members of this Working Party as soon as they are received. My strong preference is to let members have these texts before our next meeting so as to make multilateral agreement smoother. I therefore urge China and the most interested delegations to intensify their consultations on these subjects in the same spirit of flexibility that they have shown this week, and, of course, I remain fully available to assist in whatever way possible.

6. Still on the subject of multilateral issues, we should not forget the questions we have not addressed this time. Quick progress is vital for our success. I am referring, of course, to those of the eleven “plurilateral issues” which were not ripe for textual solution this time. I have in mind areas such as anti-dumping and countervailing measures; product specific safeguards and textiles; services; and trading rights.

7. I would like to also take this opportunity to welcome the contributions made by China during this session of the Working Party, especially on TRIPS and domestic implementation legislation (the latter circulated today in document WT/ACC/CHN/40). I am sure that these will go a long way towards finalisation of multilateral viable texts in these areas.

8. I believe we did well this time to focus only on the more promising areas. But, it is clear that our next meeting will be even more meaningful if we can address all the pending issues in the same focussed manner as we proceeded to do this time. Here, I mean texts both for the Draft Protocol and, where needed, for the Draft Report. It is only then that we can have a genuine multilateral “cleaning-up” process of these documents as a whole.

9. I suggest, therefore, that this is the task we set for ourselves when we meet next. I am consciously putting to you an ambitious work programme. This is particularly so because I know that major political decisions have still to be taken in many of these areas. Given the solid momentum we have generated this time, I have every hope that work will continue to advance along the lines of the plan I have just laid out. For this same reason, I feel we should do everything possible to maintain and accelerate the momentum we have gained. I shall remain in close contact with capitals and, indeed, with all of you again in the days ahead.

10. I have set before you my ideas on the agenda of our next session. As to the timing, I am, of course, in your hands. The Geneva delegations will all know that this December will be an especially full, short and difficult month. However, I propose that we get together again for our next session from 5 to 8 December. I further suggest that our method of work should be along the same lines as this week with a formal “round-up” meeting on 8 December. This would be the best way to capture and incorporate the further progress you all hope to achieve during this period.

11. With these preliminary views, I open the floor. I shall, of course, be grateful for your views, reactions and proposals.

[Floor to delegations]

12. Thank you very much for your views. It goes without saying that I will remain in close touch with Ambassador Pierre-Louis Girard and immediately inform him of our conclusions.

The meeting is adjourned.

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Notes :

1. 09/11/2000 17:03