China's entry to the World Trade Organisation will do little to stop local governments protecting their firms by excluding foreign goods, according to economists. After 14 years of talks, China will sign its 900-page membership document in Doha, Qatar, on Sunday at the biannual WTO ministerial meeting. Among the commitments is a promise to treat foreign goods as local ones. The reality is many local and provincial governments block or restrict the entry of outside goods - foreign and Chinese - to ensure people buy from local companies the government owns and taxes. This practice, illegal but widespread even before WTO entry, will not end immediately. Ma Yu, an economist at the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Co-operation, said the WTO alone would be unable to combat such protectionism, which had caused serious damage to foreign firms in China. 'Once a foreign product passes through customs, it encounters Chinese rules. Although China is joining WTO, the force of such local protectionism is very strong and is blocking the creation of a market economy. To wipe it out will require enormous effort on our part,' he said. Mao Shoulong, a professor at People's University, said that while the central Government strongly opposed protectionism, local governments would not act against it on their own. 'The centre passes regulations which local authorities are supposed to enact but they do not.' While the leaders in Beijing will crack open the champagne on Sunday, the view from many poor and inland provinces is different. According to one estimate, WTO entry will cause 20 million to 25 million job losses - 15 million from the closure of more than half the state-owned enterprises, plus five million to 10 million farmers whose grain and cotton cannot compete with imports. Worst hit will be provinces that have limited private or foreign-invested firms to provide alternative employment and rely heavily on state companies to provide jobs, tax revenue, and housing and medical benefits. As long as the centre cannot meet all these costs, these provinces will continue to support their own companies.