China to join talks on trade in services

Updated: 2013-09-27 01:18

By Li Jiabao (China Daily)

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Plan complies with need for economic restructuring, says spokesman

China will soon join the negotiations for an agreement on trade in services, a Ministry of Commerce spokesman said on Thursday.

"Consensus has been reached at home on joining the talks. It won't be long before China participates in the negotiations, and ministers from China and the United States have already consulted each other on the issue," Yao Jian said during a news briefing. But he added it's hard to say when the pact can be reached.

The Trade in Services Agreement was led by the United States and the European Union, along with more than two dozen economies. The talks were launched last year to break the stalemate in the World Trade Organization talks.

Trade in services refers to the sale and delivery of an intangible product, such as tourism, financial services and telecommunications services.

China's trade in services has developed rapidly in recent years, and the talks are expected to boost development of global trade in services.

"As for China, the services sector is an important driver of economic growth and is of great significance for the next step in economic restructuring. It's natural for China to watch the Trade in Services Agreement talks. It will be a win-win result if China's trade service development can join that of the world," Yao said.

The services sector accounted for 44 percent of China's GDP, much lower than in developed economies, which are above 70 percent, according to Yao.

"We must speed up the development of services," Yao said.

He said China's participation in the talks will be positive for the negotiations.

China's trade in services rose 12.3 percent year-on-year to $470 billion in 2012, accounting for 5.6 percent of the world's total and ranking third in the world, according to the WTO.

"China's stance in joining the Trade in Services Agreement is related to the leadership's new round of reforms and opening-up, and is surely good news for advancing economic restructuring. It will help unleash the potential in the services sector and boost domestic consumption," said Lu Feng, deputy head of the National School of Development at Peking University.

Lu added that China will be more active in setting global trade rules.

Huo Jianguo, president of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, a think tank under the ministry, said that participation in the talks will help China better integrate into the global economy and open the services sector wider.

"But the negotiations over the Trade in Services Agreement will undoubtedly be difficult," Huo said.