China Keeping Low WTO Profile

The Associated Press reports that with the future of free trade at stake, and negotiators gearing up for a showdown in Hong Kong next week, China -- the world's fastest growing trading power -- is treading quietly.

The Associated Press reports that with the future of free trade at stake, and negotiators gearing up for a showdown in Hong Kong next week, China -- the world's fastest growing trading power -- is treading quietly.

The World Trade Organization talks should be one of China's biggest events of the year -- a global effort to salvage commitments to slash subsidies, tariffs and other barriers to global commerce, and to use trade to help poor nations. So far, though, Beijing has had little to say in the days leading up to the December 13-18 meeting. Despite China's status as ultimate host of the gathering, analysts don't expect it to play a prominent role.

One key reason is that China's trade policies are not at the heart of the current impasse between the EU, U.S. and developing nations over farm subsidies and tariffs that threatens to scuttle the whole summit. Beijing doesn't want to wade into that hornet's nest, analysts say.
"What is China going to say that's going to change things? It's a stalemate," says Bob Broadfoot, director of the Economic and Political Risk Consultancy in Hong Kong.

Also, given the pressures to meet its earlier commitments since joining the WTO in 2001, China is no position to offer new concessions. And with its trade surplus surging to $100 billion this year -- and double that with the U.S. -- it's ill-placed to make demands on other countries, says Stephen Green, senior economist for Standard Chartered Bank in China.

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