WTO news: what’s been happening in the WTO


15 November 1999

Director-General Moore welcomes US-China deal, but cautions more work remains on China's entry

World Trade Organization Director-General Mike Moore warmly welcomed the U.S.-China accord on Chinese accession to the WTO, but he cautioned that substantial work remained before Beijing becomes a member of the organization. The Director-General expressed confidence that this work could be completed in a relatively short period of time.

The bilateral agreement on market access is significant, Mr. Moore said, given the size and importance of the two economies. Moreover, he said, the deal announced in Beijing today would give increased momentum to China's accession negotiations with other WTO member governments.

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"This is a major step forward in China's accession to the WTO. I have said many times that we are not a World Trade Organization until China has joined. China must still reach agreement with other member governments and we need to complete important technical talks before China can take her rightful place at the table of great trading nations. But this significant breakthrough has certainly given this process real momentum. A door to history has been opened and now member governments must walk through it together," Mr. Moore said.

The Director-General said he hoped this important agreement would also stimulate breakthroughs in accession talks with the other 30 governments negotiating to join the WTO. While stressing the importance of candidates joining on a sound commercial and legal basis, Mr. Moore said it was vital that as many governments as possible be granted accession in the very near future.

"Governments representing 1.5 billion people are working hard to join us. Virtually all of these governments represent developing countries or economies in transition. This is a strong referendum in support of this organization as an important tool in development, growth and better jobs. Bringing these governments into the multilateral trading system ranks among my top priorities," Mr. Moore said.

China, which has been negotiating entry into the WTO and its predecessor organization the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade for 13 years, must conclude bilateral market access agreements with dozens of other member governments. Following completion of these bilateral talks, the process moves to a multilateral setting in Geneva where member governments must agree on technical protocol of accession issues. These discussions, held in the WTO's Working Party on Chinese accession, centre on establishing the legal framework for China's entry.

Given the substantial amount of preparatory work involved, a meeting of this Working Party will not be convened until after the WTO's 3rd Ministerial Conference in Seattle 30 November-3 December. Mr. Moore said China's status as an observer nation at the Ministerial Conference will take on much greater meaning following the agreement in Beijing.

The Seattle meeting of trade ministers from the 135 WTO member governments will set the agenda for trade negotiations over the next few years in agriculture, services and perhaps other sectors.