China/Australia Sign WTO Pact, EU Governments Back Accord

While awaiting Wednesdays vote on PNTR in the House of Representatives, China continues to draw closer to membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO).

On Monday, Australia and China formalized an agreement that had been accepted in principle last year. A few minor changes give Australia greater access to the banking, insurance, legal and accounting sectors, and provide for immediate reductions in certain agricultural products, rather the phasing them in over time.

Meanwhile European Community leaders were expressing their satisfaction that the long delayed agreement with China had finally been concluded. Most ministers were generally pleased with the terms, stating, it “appeared to be a sound commercial package and to take full account of the EU’s specific trade interests.”

One specific that pleased the European insurance industry was China’s agreement to issue seven new business licenses to EU insurers within the next three months.

While everyone now awaits the U.S. decision, Pascal Lamy, the EU’s chief negotiator, recognized that the implementation of the huge number of changes, which China has agreed to, will be crucial for the success of any accords. Personally convinced that the Chinese will comply with WTO rules, Lamy nevertheless recognized that it called for nothing less than “a revolution,” which would require immense cultural and administrative changes.