Farmers told of market opening
MARK O'NEILL in Beijing
In its first explanation to its 900 million farmers of an agreement on agriculture signed with the United States on Saturday, Beijing yesterday told them opening the market was inevitable but that the country would never depend on imports and they should not be afraid.
The article in the Economic Daily marked the start of a campaign to sell to the public probable membership of the World Trade Organisation, of which the accord marked the first step.
Above a picture of Premier Zhu Rongji and President Bill Clinton at a joint press conference in Washington, the newspaper ran the headline: 'Farmers of China, Opening the Door Wide - Are You Well Prepared?' It said the opening of the market to farm goods, especially wheat and citrus, meant mainland farmers would face world competition.
It did not give details of the agreement, which allows a gradual opening of the market for US citrus from Arizona, California, Florida and Texas, the import of wheat and other grains from the Pacific northwest after a 26-year ban and open access for US meat and poultry.
'Opening markets is the way the world is going and is inevitable,' the paper said.
'There is no need for fear or complacency. In such a large country as China, demand cannot possibly be met by another country.
'Chinese farmers are the most hard-working and the most able to bear hardship. Change your way of thinking, speed up the modernisation of agriculture and we will have an even better future through liberalisation.' The article said the mainland was globally competitive for most farm goods, with the lowest production costs in the world for fish and meat, except poultry. Pig prices were 57 per cent lower than world levels, beef 84 per cent lower and mutton 54 per cent lower, making the mainland a major exporter to Japan, Indonesia, the former Soviet Union and other neighbouring countries.