First of all, on behalf of the Chinese Delegation, I would like to express our appreciation to you and the Secretariat for your efforts in making this meeting constructive and fruitful.
Since the last session of the working party meeting, the Chinese Delegation has conducted intensive bilateral consultations with members of the working party. As the result of the joint efforts of the countries concerned, positive results have been achieved. So far, China has conducted bilateral market access negotiations with 35 WTO members, and the bilateral negotiations with more than 20 members have approached the final stage. Up till today, we have signed bilateral agreements with seven members. The Chinese government highly appreciates the positive and practical spirit demonstrated by these countries in the bilateral negotiations, and is grateful for their understanding and support to China's WTO accession.
Before and after the current session of the working party meeting, China have held and is going to hold a new round of bilateral consultations with members of the WTO. I believe that with political will and a practical and flexible attitude, bilateral negotiations with more members will be concluded in the near future.
During the four months since the last session of the working party meeting, China has taken important steps to open its market.
As of 1 October 1997, China undertook a major tariff reduction which covers products of 4874 tariff lines and the simple average tariff rate of China has been reduced from 23% to 17%. As a result, in the five years since 1992, China has lowered its overall tariff level by 60%.
On 25 November, President Jiang Zemin declared at the APEC summit meeting held in Vancouver that China will reduce its average tariff rate for industrial products to 10% by 2005. This represents another important step of China following the several round of tariff reductions in recent years.
During the summit, President Jiang also declared that China has decided to participate in the Information Technology Agreement. Information technology industry will be one of the most important industries in the next century and will play an increasingly important role in social and economic development. As China is one of the important information technology industry countries, we hope that our decision to participate in the ITA will promote the development of information technology in the world and will represent a support to the world multilateral trading system.
In addition, the Chinese government has decided recently to eliminate non-tariff measures for another 13 products as of 1 January 1998.
The above-mentioned measures adopted by the Chinese government fully demonstrate its determination of further opening its market and its commitment to the multilateral and regional process of trade and investment liberalization.
In parallel to the significant progress in trade in goods, we have made new efforts in trade in services. In line with the arrangement of the last working party meeting, the Chinese side has spent five months, starting from last May, revising the service schedule and has conducted concentrated negotiations with some member countries on services. We gave note that during the morning session of this meeting, many delegations gave a positive assessment to the tremendous efforts of the Chinese side, and raised many new requests and proposals. We are willing to further clarify and explain the content of the schedule through bilateral consultations. We hope that our service offer will provide a basis for future negotiations which will be conducive to the comprehensive progress of market access negotiations and will contribute to the final conclusion of the process.
When our 11-year negotiation enters a new calendar year, I believe that it is important to bear in mind the ultimate objective of this negotiation. Because when a process stretches too long, people tend to focus their attentions on the process itself while sometimes forgetting the objective of it. We believe that the objective of China's WTO accession, on the one hand, is to commit China to the WTO rules; and on the other hand, is to gradually bring China's opening up of its market in line with the level of the majority of the WTO members. The earlier China accedes to the WTO, the earlier China will implement its commitment to the WTO rules. I believe, to prolong the negotiation process is, in fact, to delay China's implementation of its obligation to the WTO.
In the meantime, we also hope that this negotiation will be concluded as soon as possible so as to enable China's active participation in the important ongoing negotiations in the WTO, such as the negotiation on financial service which is expected to conclude next week. According to the built-in agenda of the WTO, the next round of negotiations on trade in services will begin on 1 January 2000. We hope that China could participate in this round of negotiation as a full member of the WTO.
To summarize, the conclusion of China's WTO market access negotiations should not be considered the end of China's process to open its market, rather, it is a new staring point.
Market opening has always been mutual. How large and to what extent a country's market can be opened has always been conditioned on the level of its economic development. We should not forget that to open the market is not an end by itself, the end is to make the economies of the countries concerned mutually complimentary and thus further developed. No matter when China joins the WTO, China will, starting from its own development level, continue to open its market and accelerate the establishment of a market economic system in line with its own interests, as well as the request in participating the trade and investment liberalization process of such organization as APEC, so as to achieve a balance between its right and obligations in the world trading system.
On the eve of the new year, I would like to thank you and thank everyone in the working party for your support to China's accession in the past year and wish we could continue to work in the coming year. Finally, I wish every one of you in advance a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.