U.S. Doubts China Will Fulfill WTO Duties

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Byline: Carter Dougherty

The Bush administration does not believe China will honor all of the commitments it has made to join the World Trade Organization, but will not move quickly to mount legal challenges through the Geneva-based body, a top U.S. trade official said yesterday.

"One would be naive to think that commitments negotiated by the trade ministry, even though blessed by the leadership, will be implemented automatically and then enforced," U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick said in a speech to the U.S.-China Business Council, a Washington industry group.

Mr. Zoellick said competing forces in China, such as national and provincial governments, will struggle with each other as the Asian giant complies with WTO rules that require it to open up to foreign trade and investment. China must change or eliminate "literally thousands of laws, ordinances and regulations" as part of WTO membership.

"Many domestic actors in China have at best a dubious commitment to the principles that underlie WTO membership - openness, free markets, transparency and competition," Mr. Zoellick said.

After a decade-long negotiation, China took its seat at the WTO, the chief global forum for trade negotiations, on Dec. 11. Given China's failure to comply with many bilateral agreements it has struck with the United States - on copyrights, fruits and wheat, for example, many observers have questioned its ability to be a WTO member in good standing. …