Ministry moves to publicise pledges
Mark O'Neill in Beijing
China has promised to publish in full the 1,500-page protocol it signed to enter the World Trade Organisation two weeks ago in Doha, but said it would try to solve disputes bilaterally before taking them to the WTO.
The first press conference by senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Trade & Economic Co-operation since the signing drew more than 200 reporters and dozens of cameramen, indicating the public interest in the issue.
Officials limited the time of the press conference to 45 minutes which, with interpretation, left less than 25 minutes for questions and many reporters dissatisfied.
'To meet the demand for information from the general public, we have completed the translation of the document into Chinese,' one of the officials, Zhang Xiangchen, said.
'We are ensuring its accuracy and comprehensiveness and will publish it quickly. Government departments have already received the protocols which affect them.'
Official Gao Yan said that the ministry would soon publish a book with 'essential knowledge' about the WTO. Ministry officials also were preparing television programmes to be broadcast soon.
These activities were all part of ministry efforts to inform the public about what the government had actually agreed to.
A survey of 4,000 residents of 12 cities, published in yesterday's Workers Daily, found that 11.7 per cent had no idea about the WTO and 43.6 per cent did not know whether it would be good or bad for them.
An early candidate for WTO dispute resolution might be a row with Japan. Tokyo in April imposed temporary 'safeguard' curbs on surging imports of Chinese giant leeks, shiitake mushrooms and rushes used in tatami mats. Beijing hit back in June with 100 per cent punitive tariffs on Japanese cars, mobile phones and air conditioners. Bilateral talks have broken down.
On December 11, when the mainland becomes a member of the WTO, China has the option of taking the dispute to the world trade body's dispute settlement system.
'We intend to fully utilise this system,' the ministry's director-general of treaties and laws department, Zhang Yuqing, said.
'But we still hope to solve bilateral disputes, such as those with Japan, through negotiation. That is the dominant idea of the WTO.'
Mr Zhang said that in November 1999 his ministry set up a steering group to review foreign-trade laws and regulations to bring them into line with WTO regulations. It ordered foreign-trade departments in cities, provinces and regions to do the same thing.
'We are working very hard to meet the demands of the WTO, to make the necessary adjustments to our legal system and to ensure a framework that is fair and transparent,' he said.