China to offer tariff cuts
CHINA is expected to use next week's Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) meeting to propose a large cut in tariffs for imported products across the board, beginning early next year.
The scale of the proposed adjustment would be comparatively larger than previous adjustments, according to a Chinese official. The average tariff level now is around 35 per cent.
Other liberalisation initiatives from China will include a lowering of non-tariff barriers such as import permits, opening up of more cities for foreign banks, further relaxation of foreign investment in the retail business and improved national treatment of foreign businesses in China.
Sources said benefits for Hong Kong would include a commitment to bind around 33 per cent of the value of its imports at zero per cent tariff. The territory would also offer to further liberalise its financial sector. Offers for other members would include speeding up tariff reductions, as agreed in the Uraguay Round Agreement.
At last year's summit, APEC leaders set 2010 as the target date for industrialised members such as Japan and the US to meet the free trade goal in the region, and 2020 for developing members such as China and Indonesia.
Ministers and senior officials from 18 members will finalise the 'Action Agenda' for this goal at APEC senior official and ministerial meetings in Osaka early next week.
The free trade goal will cover trade in products and services. But consensus has not been reached on whether the agriculture sector should be included.
The Action Agenda will include individual liberalisation actions effective from January 1997 and collective actions like standardisation of products and streamlining of customs procedures.
Since the Action Agenda will not be effective until 1997, members have reached a consensus to give some sort of 'down payment' as a gesture of their commitment to implement last year's free trade goal.