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Week of September 29, 2000

Week of September 29, 2000

The U.S. and China This Week

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INTERNATIONAL: China and Switzerland Sign WTO Deal; Obstacles Still Remain for China’s Entry into Trade Body

SUMMARY: After difficult negotiations, China and Switzerland reached a bilateral agreement moving China closer to joining the World Trade Organization (WTO). There were three obstacles that needed to be worked out before the agreement could be made. They included Switzerland’s demand for three licenses for Swiss insurers to operate in China, a reduction of customs duties on watches, and access to the Chinese market for quality control, which is important to La Societe Generale de Surveillance. Though China has made agreements with 36 WTO members, it still must work out a bilateral agreement with Mexico and work out technical aspects of its accession to the trade body, which could still take months.

Pierre-Loius Girard, a Swiss trade official told a WTO panel working on China’s accession that it is necessary to develop multilateral agreements on how and when China’s trade commitments would be implemented in line with WTO requirements. China and the WTO are still discussing how China will implement the WTO’s rules on intellectual property and trade investment measures, technical barriers to trade, and quotas. The next meeting China and the WTO will be held in late October or early November.

Consequently, U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky is making plans to meet Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji to discuss China’s remaining obstacles with the WTO. Barshefsky has recently expressed confidence that China will live up to its market-opening commitments upon joining the WTO. However, there have been small signs that Beijing is trying to renegotiate a few of the terms. Beijing has sought to delay the reduction of tariffs on certain information technology products.

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INTERNATIONAL: China Tells the Vatican to "Repent"

SUMMARY: China stepped up it verbal attacks on the Vatican after it was reported that Pope John Paul would canonize 120 Western and Chinese Catholics, who were killed in China, on Sunday, Oct. 1 –China’s National Day.

To show their disapproval, Mainland leaders have published rules to curb missionaries and enlisted official Protestant Churches and Catholic bishops to accuse Rome of fomenting anti-government sentiment among Chinese Catholics. "The Vatican should repent of its past crimes against the Chinese people committed by the missionaries, instead of allowing certain people in the Holy See to further tamper with history and fool the world under the guise of the term canonization," said a joint statement by two government-controlled Protestant groups.

The Vatican’s spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, explained that the day Oct. 1 marks the feast of Saint Therese of Lisieux, patron saint of missionaries, and was a natural and purely religious choice for the service. He also denied that the ceremony was politically motivated or "directed against anyone."

However, China’s officials still decided to reissue rules forbidding proselytizing by foreigners and prohibiting them from bringing any religious item into China, except for personal use. Moreover, comments by officials and articles in the news have repeatedly bashed religion as a tool for imperialist that historically repressed Chinese people.

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DOMESTIC: Another Coal Mine Explosion Kills Over a Hundred

SUMMARY: On Wednesday night a gas explosion at the state-owned Muchonggou Coal Mine in Shuicheng, Guizhou province, killed at least 118 miners and perhaps more. Though 241 miners were underground at the time, only 81 managed to climb out alive, Xinhua news agency said.

China is the world’s largest coal producer and consumer, yet their coal mining safety record has been appalling, averaging around 10,000 mining deaths per year over the past decade. Official figures have recorded 7,423 mining fatalities in 1998 and another 3,464 dead with for the first nine months of 1999. These numbers do not include thousands of miners who are maimed each year in underground accidents.

According to the official China Coal News, in Guizhou alone, 136 miners have died between mid-July and mid-September. It said many of the mines involved in the accidents were located in mountainous areas where there are poor communication facilities and bad safety infrastructures. Also, it reported that 18 out of the 20 mine accidents were due to gas explosions, adding that the coal seam in the region had a high gas content.

Zhang Baoming, director of the State Administration of the Coal Industry, said China’s mines produced 1.2 billion tons of coal last year, but there are plans to only produce 900 million tons this year. Over the next 50 years China wants to reduce its dependence on coal to 50 percent of its total energy needs.

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The U.S. and China This Week
The U.S. and China This Week

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