China expands free trade programs to help most needy nations   2011-11-24 17:35:44 FeedbackPrintRSS

BEIJING, Nov. 24 (Xinhua) -- China is expanding help to boost the world's least developed countries (LDCs) through a hefty tariff exemption, to live up to its obligations despite rising protectionism amid global economic headwinds.

Chinese President Hu Jintao announced at the G20 Summit earlier this month that China will, in the context of South-South cooperation, give zero-tariff treatment to 97 percent of the tariff items of exports from the LDCs with diplomatic ties to the country.

That was a further step taken by the world's second-largest economy to push trade between developing countries following its previous promise on zero-tariff treatment to 95 percent of products from relevant LDCs.

Hu said the move was among a variety of measures to create conditions for other developing countries to increase exports to China.

As one of the most open markets among developing countries to LDCs, China already announced in July last year that it would scrap tariffs on 4,762 categories of commodities imported from 33 LDCs, covering 60 percent of the total taxable items.

Before the new tax reduction, China had already put about 1,000 categories of products from 41 of the LDCs on its zero-tariff list.

"This showed the country's sincerity in aiding these developing countries," said Yu Miaojie, associate professor at the China Center for Economic Research, Peking University.

Tariff exemption would give LDCs' products an edge on the large Chinese market and help boost LDCs' exports dramatically, Yu said.

LDCs -- 33 from Africa, 14 from Asia plus Haiti -- are defined by the United Nations as those with a per capita income of less than 745 U.S. dollars a year.

In 2008, as much as 23 percent of these countries' exports flew into China, making it their largest importer.

In Africa, China had imported a total of 1.32-billion-U.S.-dollars-worth of African products under zero-tariff terms from 2005 to the end of June, 2010, according to a government white paper on China-Africa economic and trade cooperation drawn up last year.

China has always been willing to help the most needy and also an active supporter of trade liberalization, said Yu, who regards the recent tariff exemptions and the country's previous efforts on the establishment of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area as positive signals to promote free trade.

"It is especially commendable as protectionism is gaining momentum around the globe," he said.

The tariff exemption is also conducive to pushing forward the Doha Round of trade negotiations, Yu said.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao pledged in October that China will keep on sharing development opportunities as well as tackling challenges together with other parts of the world.

He also urged all World Trade Organization (WTO) members to pursue further the Doha Round of negations, with special attention paid to LDCs.

Apart from tariff reliefs, China has granted these poor countries other financial and technological supports with no political strings attached.

According to Hu's Cannes speech, food security, infrastructure, and tariff-free and quota-free treatment to the LDCs are the key areas in which China has been helping other developing countries.

China has built schools, hospitals, drinking-water facilities, stadia and other infrastructure projects in those countries to help improve the livelihood of their people.

The assistance to LDCs made up 40 percent of China's total foreign aid in 2009, and the figure has surpassed 50 percent in 2010.

The country has cut or canceled the debts of underdeveloped nations. By 2010, it had written off 23.8 billion yuan (3.75 billion U.S. dollars) owed to it by 44 LDCs.

Meanwhile, it has set up overseas economic and trade cooperation zones in a number of the poorest countries such as Ethiopia, Zambia and Cambodia to help them expand employment and incomes.

In July this year, China also gave 400,000 U.S. dollars to help LDCs join the WTO or participate in the trade body's activities.

Yu said creating a better trade environment will exert greater impact on these countries' long-term development, as it will scale up exports and is thus likely to strengthen their ability to generate growth. 

Editor: Deng Shasha
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