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Friday, March 02, 2001, updated at 07:57(GMT+8)

China's WTO Entry Another Phase of Globalization

China's accession to the WTO will start another major phase of the globalization process, an international conference here was told Thursday.

The world's businesses, multi-national corporations or small and medium-sized companies will experience yet another major phase of the globalization process, as China is close to completing her long march towards the WTO membership, said Yvonne Choi, acting secretary for the Hong Kong Commerce and Industry Department.

Choi made the remark when delivering an opening speech at the international conference on impacts of globalization and China's accession to the WTO, which was held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center Thursday.

"A more market-oriented, more transparent and rules-based economy will facilitate further access to this vast market," Choi said. "At the same time, it will also enable the Mainland to integrate into the world market in full gear."

According to the World Bank, China's share in the world's external trade is predicted to double in a space of five years as a result of WTO entry and it will become the third largest economy in the world by 2020.

"This rapid growth in the share of world trade, coupled with a projected growth in trade volume at the average rate of seven percent annually, is likely to mean yet more businesses and opportunities for everyone who does business in the country," Choi noted.

Choi believed that Hong Kong will be an attractive location for new foreign investment for those who have an eye on the Chinese mainland's market upon her accession to the WTO.

Hong Kong's strengths in relation to the Chinese mainland lie in its advanced business infrastructure, professional expertise, wide commercial connections, and ability to package complex and sophisticated deals, Choi explained.

"The mainland's increasing integration with the world economy will increase the demand for such services, and Hong Kong is well placed to expand our traditional middleman role," Choi added.

Participants to the conference also believed that globalization is an important force shaping the development of economies in the 21st century, which integrates the world economy by creating a dynamic equilibrium at both international and national levels.

The temporary set-back at Seattle in December 1999 will not and should not stop the multilateral trading system from furthering its mission, they felt. "We are convinced that a new round is the best way forward to forestall backsliding into protectionism and sustain the momentum of trade liberalization," said Stuart Harbinson, permanent representative of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to the WTO, who was recently elected as Chairman of the WTO General Council.

A new round will also contribute to updating and strengthening the disciplines of the multilateral trading system to ensure that they meet the needs of an increasingly globalized and technology- driven world economy, Harbinson said.

Participants also held that the past century witnessed the power of trade liberalization and globalization. "Trade liberalization has opened up new markets and brought about enormous investment opportunities to businesses," said James Hughes-Hallet, chairman of the Swire Pacific Ltd.

Hughes-Hallet believed that together with rapid technological advancement in the past few decades, the strong forces of globalization have transformed the conduct of trade and significantly changed the business environment in which businesses operate.

The conference, entitled "Opportunities for the Business Sector in a Changing Global Environment" focused on changes in the business environment as a result of increasing globalization and rapid technology advancement, the importance and relevance of the WTO to the business community, and the implications of China's imminent accession to the WTO and the opportunities.

Many world-renowned trade and international law experts, prominent scholars, highly-regarded professionals, successful businessmen, and experienced consultants shared with over 250 local and foreign participants their views on these topics of relevance to the business community.

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China's accession to the WTO will start another major phase of the globalization process, an international conference here was told Thursday.

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