China nurtures hopes and fears as WTO membership takes effect

Tuesday, December 11th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BEIJING (AP) _ China formally joined the World Trade Organization on Tuesday, ushering in an era of more choices for consumers, more opportunity for foreign investors and trying times for Chinese farms and factories.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said membership in world trade's rule-making body was the fruit of two decades of economic reform.

It offers chances for growth ``as well as challenges,'' Zhang said at a regular news briefing.

In a sign of the changes still required to bring China into line with its new status, the main Communist Party newspaper People's Daily said more than 1,000 laws and rules must be rewritten or repealed.

``It is still a tough task facing China in this regard,'' Zhang said.

However, just getting China into the WTO gives the world trading system a morale boost at a time of slowing economies and a rocky start to new talks on more liberalization.

``China's accession to the WTO is an important milestone for this organization and its member states,'' President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, who was visiting Beijing, said Tuesday in a speech at a university in the Chinese capital.

Beijing has promised to pry open its markets and industries to foreigners. It hopes the influx of investment and competition will drive the overhaul of China's economy and raise living standards.

But opening its protected markets also will cost millions of jobs as farms and state companies face an onslaught of cheaper imports.

Private entrepreneurs stand to benefit from changes demanded by China's trading partners that end monopolies and special treatment for state firms.

Officials say the changes will the most important since China launched its capitalist-style economic reforms in 1979.

``For China it is a great day,'' the newspaper Economic Daily said in a front-page editorial.