US calls on China to revive Doha talks

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 August, 2006, 12:00am

Trade chief says mainland will gain from successful deal

Washington's top trade official has called on Beijing to help revive the stalled Doha round of trade talks and to make progress in meeting its WTO commitments, saying that China has a strong self-interest in open global markets.

US Trade Representative Susan Schwab said in a speech in Beijing yesterday that Beijing had 'an unprecedented stake in the successful conclusion of a robust Doha agreement', which she said could only be possible 'with vigorous and positive Chinese participation'.

Ms Schwab said in a meeting with Commerce Minister Bo Xilai on Monday she had urged Beijing to play a role 'commensurate with its status as the third largest trading nation in the world'.

'It is my strong hope that China will carry out a clear-eyed assessment of the costs and benefits of a successful Doha round,' she said, 'and conclude that it is in China's long-term self-interest to play an active role in ensuring the round's ultimate success.'

The Doha round of World Trade Organisation trade talks was aimed at removing barriers to agricultural and industrial trade to help developing countries overcome poverty. But the talks broke down late last month when the US and the EU failed to reach a compromise on reducing trade barriers.

Ms Schwab said China was a member of the G-20 group of developing economies and also a part of the G-33 camp, which she said was seeking to protect agricultural production for subsistence farmers. She added that in both groups there were countries with trade interests markedly different from China's who were playing the leading roles.

'Is it really in China's best interest, I asked Minister Bo yesterday, to have these other countries appearing to speak for China?' she said. 'As an export powerhouse, China should be clear about its stake in a multilateral round that maximises market opening and trade facilitation.'

Ms Schwab also called on Beijing to make progress in meeting the market-opening commitments it made when it acceded to the WTO in 2001. China's deadline to meet its commitments is December 11.

She said that while the US had unquestionably derived benefits from having China in the rules-based trading system, the bilateral relationship 'today still lacks equity, durability and balance in the opportunities it provides'.

The US trade official attributed the disparity in part to Beijing's failure to enforce intellectual property rights, its efforts to protect and support certain domestic industries and its delay in fulfilling certain market-opening obligations. 'Left unaddressed, these problems pose a real danger to the health of the relationship,' she said.

Mr Bo was quoted by Xinhua yesterday as saying that Beijing was willing to work with other parties to try to revive the Doha round, but he said that to do this, developed members of the WTO should act first by making substantial contributions.

Mr Bo said he regretted the breakdown in the Doha talks, and he added that reviving them was in the interest of the majority of WTO members.

Ms Schwab, appointed US trade representative in April, was on the final leg of a tour to meet Asian officials, during which she also met officials in Malaysia and representatives of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to seek their support to end the Doha impasse.