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28 September 2000

Meeting of the working party on the accession of China

Summing Up by the Chairman

I would like to make the following remarks at the conclusion of this 12th meeting of the China Working Party.

First, the discussions and meetings that we have had over the past two weeks mark yet another important step in China's process of accession to the WTO.

Second, after our September meetings, it is even clearer that China's accession process is in its final stage. The good news is that as in past sessions, we have achieved some concrete progress, in specific areas of the Draft Report. It is my intention to circulate a revised Draft Report reflecting this progress. A large part of this progress is due to work done in the various Plurilateral meetings, and I take this opportunity to express our gratitude to all the Chairpersons of the Plurilateral meetings. We have all appreciated greatly the time and intellectual energy that they have devoted to the responsibilities entrusted to them. We may be turning to them in the future as well.

Third, we have now clearly identified the remaining sensitive and difficult issues where breakthroughs are urgently required. Here, I have to say that we should recognize that compared to the objectives we set ourselves for the September session, the progress we were able to make, positive as it may be, fell short. Indeed, the limited nature of the progress achieved on these vital issues tends to put into question our target of concluding this accession process this year.

Fourth, we have to draw yet another important lesson from our September meetings. The required breakthroughs to which I have referred are only possible through fundamental re-examination of negotiating positions in capitals and with the necessary political guidance being given to the Geneva negotiators to move our process to conclusion. In other words, we are not dealing here with drafting problems. In my view, we are not even dealing any more — other than on a limited number of issues — with the range of commitments for the Draft Protocol or Draft Report. Beyond these commitments themselves, a large part of the open issues before us has to do with reaching multilateral agreement on how and when these commitments will be implemented in line with WTO requirements. Each of you knows full well what specific issues I am referring to. I do not see a need to list them before you.

Fifth, the September meetings have permitted us therefore to draw a conclusion that all negotiators need to urgently report back to political authorities and hold further talks amongst and between themselves as necessary. I will be in constant touch with a view to receiving positive signals of progress on the required breakthroughs.

Finally, I need hardly remind you that we are all working to a very tight schedule and that major work still remains to be done on all fronts. Under these circumstances, it is my strong preference to hold our next session as soon as possible, even late October, early November. However, it is equally true that before planning such a session in terms of timing and agenda, we will need to be in a position to ensure that our next session is substantively different in nature and outcome from this session. I am confident that with cooperation and effort from all parties, this should be possible.