Experts hail China's procurement offer

15:31, July 17, 2010      

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Senior World Trade Organization (WTO) experts on Friday welcomed China's improved offer to join the WTO government procurement agreement (GPA) and said it was a significant step that would improve the nation's global image.

Criticizing the tactics adopted by countries like the United States to pressure China, the experts said the GPA member nations themselves are unable to ensure fair and equal treatment for foreign nations.

Deputy US trade representative Demetrios Marantis had earlier said in Washington that China has submitted a new offer to join the WTO agreement on government procurement. He said the revised offer includes significant improvements and was better than the earlier proposal submitted by China in 2007.

WTO experts from China have also welcomed the revised offer. Although details about the new offer are still unclear, "the revised offer indicates that China is more positive and flexible on the GPA issue", said Tong Zhiguang, former vice-minister of commerce and chief WTO negotiator.

The Ministry of Commerce declined to elaborate on the new proposal and said it was still under negotiation.

"Given that China is one of the leading exporters and trading nations in the world, the relaxation of curbs on government procurement will not hurt the nation too much," Tong said.

Marantis said the new proposal is a "solid step toward ensuring China's huge government procurement market is open to US companies". US officials estimate the size of the government procurement market in China at around $500 billion.

"Joining the GPA was only a question of time for China, and the current moves are appreciated as it shows the urgency on the GPA issue and the commitment to implement WTO pledges," said Zhou Shijian, executive director of the China Society for WTO Studies.

But "what concerns me most is whether and when the other GPA members like the US strictly follow the commitments made under the agreement," Zhou said.

In 2007, China submitted a plan to the WTO for joining the GPA, and held negotiations with five GPA members including the US, South Korea, Japan, Canada and the European Union. But the proposal was turned down and China was urged to make significant improvements.

The US said it is analyzing the revised proposal to ensure that the terms of accession are comprehensive and comparable. The US had in the past said China was discriminating against foreign firms and blocking exports from America. It also wanted China to follow through on its commitments.

But the US also invoked criticism when it decided to launch a "Buy American" plan last year to protect local manufacturers. Experts want the US to honor its WTO commitments while implementing the plan.

"The US should set a good example as a GPA member before it seeks high requirements from other nations like China," Zhou said. So far, 41 out of the WTO's 153 members have joined the GPA.

Source:China Daily


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