Japan and China will hold a fresh round of negotiations in Tokyo next week on Beijing’s admission to the World Trade Organization, government officials said Aug. 20.
The negotiations will be held from Aug. 27 through Aug. 29, and the Chinese delegation will be headed by Long Yongtu, an assistant foreign trade and economic cooperation minister, according to an official who requested anonymity.
“We hope the two countries will be able to effectively reach an agreement (on China’s market-opening measures) before Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto’s visit to China early next month,” one senior government official said.
But government officials generally acknowledge that progress during next week’s negotiations largely depends on China’s additional concessions on both tariff and nontariff trade barriers.
Hashimoto is scheduled to make a four-day official trip to China, beginning Sept. 4, for talks with President Jiang Zemin and other Beijing leaders. The leaders will try and put the often shaky Sino-Japanese relations on a firmer footing in time for the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1972.
China must clear two hurdles before it can be admitted to the WTO; one is obtaining an agreement in multilateral negotiations at the WTO’s working party on China’s membership and the other is to strike bilateral market-access deals with major trading partners.
China wants to enter the WTO before the Geneva-based body convenes its second ministerial talks next May. The WTO succeeded the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in January 1995 as a new and more powerful watchdog to oversee international commerce.
Earlier this year, China made some concessions at the WTO’s working party, including the abolition — three years after being admitted to the WTO — of its widely criticized system of granting “foreign trading rights” to only a limited number of permitted companies.
But the last round of negotiations at the WTO’s working party, which ended Aug. 1, failed to make significant headway. Aside from the multilateral negotiations, China has not yet struck bilateral market-access deals with any major trading partners.
Japan has asked China to reduce import tariffs on about 400 industrial and agricultural products as soon as possible. Although China offered to lower import tariffs on about 300 of the 400 requested items at the last round of bilateral negotiations held in Geneva in late July, Japan sees the concessions as insufficient in both size and timing.
Also on the question of nontariff trade barriers, China offered at the last bilateral negotiations to eliminate the quantitative import restrictions on automobiles and some other products within eight years after WTO entry, instead of the 12-year grace period it had offered earlier. But Japan insists the quantitative import restrictions be lifted much earlier.
In the service area, China has not yet responded to a Japanese request for the elimination of restrictions on foreign companies trying to establish local business footholds in such sectors as distribution, finance and construction.
“We expect China to make a satisfactory market-liberalization offer on the service areas next week,” one Japanese government official said.