- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 23, 2002

GENEVA The United States and China are fighting over the communist nation's membership in the World Trade Organization's high-tech accord.
China is charging that the United States is hindering its membership to the global agreement, which calls for eliminating all duties on trade of high-tech products such as semiconductors, computers and telecommunication equipment, worth more than $600 billion a year.
"The United States have blocked our membership," said Sun Zhenyu, China's ambassador to the World Trade Organization.
China is committed to joining the WTO's Information Technology Agreement (ITA), the envoy said.
Membership to the accord was among the package of entry terms agreed to by China before it was allowed to join the 145-member WTO after 15 years of talks.
The United States has rejected China's charges and is backed by Japan, the European Union, and Southeast Asian nations.
The bone of contention is 15 products, out of a list of 300 that China has agreed to include in its ITA schedule but for which Beijing is demanding end-user certificates.
China says that without such documentation, the products cannot enter the country duty-free.
Mr. Sun said the certification is required to determine whether the imports will be used for ITA-designated high-tech products.
But a high-level U.S. trade official dismissed the Chinese assertions and countered that "no other [ITA] member" employs such measures.
"No one has this right" under the ITA accord, added the U.S. official, who requested anonymity.
"It's a form of domestic protection," complained a senior Asian official, whose country has close commercial ties with China.
EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy told a business audience in Beijing a week ago, "We are especially vigilant over the establishment of new non-trade barriers" by China.
Mr. Lamy singled out problems related to lack of transparency and the introduction of standards "out of line with international standards."
The disputed items include quartz reactor tubes, electric amplifiers used in telephony products and ion-beam milling machines used in the production of semiconductor wafers.
Additional certificates are "quite costly in terms of delay and an additional administrative hurdle. We've resisted; they're a barrier, a burden," a high-level U.S. official said.
The demands by China would "tie us up in knots," one Western trade diplomat said.
But the United States says China's entry into the ITA is important and wants the issue resolved.
The ITA was brokered in 1996 and was the brainchild of President Clinton, who lined up support for the package during a heads-of-state summit for Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation.

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