The deal hammered out today in Beijing to admit China to the World Trade Organization contains key elements sought by American businesses, opening up telecommunications, insurance, banking and auto finance areas to U.S. firms, U.S. officials said.
In one of the most sensitive areas for both sides, China agreed in talks with an unusually large U.S. negotiating team to let foreign firms buy up to 49 percent of telecommunications firms, effective immediately, and up to 50 percent within just two years.
In the talks which broke down in April, U.S. officials had said that China had agreed to let foreign firms buy up to 51 percent of telecommunications firms. Criticism within China about turning over majority stakes of key Chinese industries forced the change, but U.S. officials said that Chinese law allows for foreign firms with 50 percent interests to retain managerial control of a joint venture.
* Foreign insurance companies will be able to own 50 percent of joint ventures immediately, and all geographical restrictions on the ability of foreign firms to sell insurance will be lifted by 2003. Currently foreign firms can only sell insurance in selected markets, such as Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing.
* Automobile manufacturers also won important concessions. Foreign firms will be able to supply financing for new car purchases. Tariffs on auto imports will also be reduced from 80 to 100 percent down to 25 percent by July 1, 2006. Most of those reductions will take place in the early years.
* Foreign banks, currently barred from engaging in transactions in Chinese currency, will get new access. In two years, foreign banks will be able to do transactions in Chinese currency with Chinese companies. In five years, they will be able to do business in local currency with Chinese individuals. In five years, all geographical restrictions on foreign banks operating in China will be lifted.
* Farm products: China also agreed to cut tariffs on a wide range of agricultural products.
* Product dumping: On a sensitive issue for China, the United States retained the right to treat China as a non-market economy for 15 years on dumping cases. These cases are used to prevent China from selling goods to the United States at below cost. This period was longer than China wanted. But the United States agreed that China can seek exceptions for certain sectors. The U.S. also retained special "anti-surge" protections against large increases in imports from China for 12 years.
* Movies: The number of foreign motion pictures allowed in China would increase from ten to 20 a year.
Other provisions of the agreement cover law firms, accounting firms, and Internet joint ventures.