China ready to join negotiations on services trade liberalization


China plans to join Japan, the United States and Europe in negotiations to liberalize the services trade, according to sources.

China, the world’s third-biggest services market, would be the first major emerging economy to join the negotiations. If new trade rules are established among the participants, business transactions in financial, communications and other fields are expected to increase, the sources said Tuesday.

China’s participation is also seen adding momentum to efforts to liberalize trade in specific fields among willing economies at a time when the World Trade Organization’s Doha round of global trade liberalization talks is on the verge of collapsing.

At first, China was not willing to join the services trade talks, but it changed its stance out of concern about the establishment of major trade rules excluding China, such as those under the planned Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.

China’s decision came ahead of a two-day summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum set to start Monday in Indonesia.

The services trade liberalization talks currently involve 23 economies, including South Korea and Australia, covering 12 fields, such as finance, transportation, tourism and medicine. The participants aim to revamp the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade Services.

The current members agreed to start their negotiations in June. So far, Japan and the U.S. have presented their proposals.

China told the current members late last month that it intends to join the talks in November, the sources said.

Services trade is important to China’s economic growth and social development, a Chinese internal document said, adding the country aims to achieve high-level trade liberalization using the General Agreement on Trade Services as a springboard.

Speaking in Geneva, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman expressed hopes for high-level trade liberalization by China. He said Washington and other members will examine China’s future proposals.