New trade law targets GATT re-entry

CHINA, striving to improve its trading rules to bolster its bid to rejoin the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), has finished drafting its first foreign trade law, according to a senior official.

Ms Wu Yi, newly appointed Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Co-operation, said the draft law would soon be submitted to the standing committee of the National People's Congress for deliberation after being approved by the Chinese State Council.

The New China News Agency quoted Ms Wu as saying that the new law had been drafted in a bid to develop trade based on international norms.

Earlier this year, China formulated the Provisional Rules on Administration of Export Commodities in accordance with international trade practices to bring about fundamental changes in the export trading system.

At the same time, the country accelerated its import system by abolishing import regulatory tax and reducing importing duties first on 225 products and then on 3,371 products as a major step to open up its domestic market.

China is anxious to rejoin GATT to protect is booming trade, which now accounts for about 40 per cent of gross national product.

But it faces immense pressure from the United States to establish a market economy that does not distort trade with unfair subsidies or secret regulations.

US trade negotiators in March dashed Beijing's hopes of an early return to the world trade body by saying that China was refusing to make concessions.

Other laws relating to foreign trade such as anti-dumping and subsidies were also under consideration, said the minister.

So far the country has published more than 500 laws and rules governing foreign trade and economic co-operation.

''Nevertheless, as the socialist market economy system is being gradually established, the pace of legislation on foreign trade should be quickened,'' she said.

Ms Wu said more efforts should be taken to improve the composition and quality of exports.

She added that those involved in exporting fake and low-quality goods would face heavier penalties.

Meanwhile, Ms Wu said, China would try to diversify its foreign economic and trade markets, paying more attention to developing new markets in the Commonwealth of Independent States, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa.

She said that her ministry would encourage co-operation between industrial, agricultural and technological enterprises and foreign trade corporations, as well as the establishment of groups combining science, industry and trade.

''This will help to realise the industrialisation and internationalising of China's foreign trade enterprises,'' she explained.

Speaking in Guangzhou last week, Mr Zhou Zhilin, deputy director of the department of policy and development under the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Co-operation, said that after the trade law was passed, administrative control in foreign trade would be gradually replaced by economic factors.

''The new role for the ministry will be to ensure the law is followed by the enterprises engaging in foreign trade,'' he said.

Mr Zhou said the new name of the ministry, until recently the Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations and Trade, better reflected its role.

While the ministry will continue to be responsible for the enforcement of macro-economic policy, the newly created Economic and Trade Commission would play a co-ordinating role.

''For example, when a conflict between our ministry and other ministries arises, the commission would intervene to find out a solution,'' he said.