Agriculture Press Release

November 15, 1999

Crawford Lauds U.S.-China WTO Agreement

TALLAHASSEE -- Florida Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford says that Chinas agreement to enter the World Trade Organization is a critical breakthrough in an effort to gain market access for Floridas citrus products. U.S. and Chinese officials signed the market-opening agreement Monday after six days of intense negotiations between trade representatives.

The agreement comes on the heels of one of the most aggressive trade initiatives ever launched by Commissioner Crawford. That initiative has included sending an agricultural delegation to China for the past two weeks to meet with top officials including China Vice Chairman Tian, of the National Peoples Congress, and Mr. Long Yong Tu, Chinas Chief WTO negotiator in Beijing; setting up a Florida Department of Agriculture office in Beijing; and extensive involvement in the WTO Ministerial Conference, to be held in Seattle, Washington, at the end of this month. These contacts have been cultivated over the past two years starting when Crawford led an extensive trade delegation to China and Hong Kong in 1997.

"Florida has played a crucial role in urging China to open its markets," Crawford said. "I am extremely pleased that our U.S. trade negotiators led by Ambassador Charlene Barshefsky were able to work out areas of disagreement. This is of utmost significance to Florida citrus."

The Departments delegation, which returns to Florida on Wednesday is also gathering valuable marketing information in anticipation of access to Chinas market of 1.2 billion consumers. This marketing report will include information on consumer preferences for fresh fruit, distribution channels for suppliers and intelligence on Chinas shipping infrastructure.

Chinas accession into the WTO will also mean the implementation of a previously approved agreement to reduce tariffs on U.S. citrus from 40 percent to 12 percent over a five-year period. Under that agreement, China also agreed to adhere to sound, scientific standards on the importability of citrus products.

The delegation is urging Chinese government officials to quickly send inspectors to the U.S. to inspect citrus groves in Florida, California, Arizona and Texas to verify those standards are being met.

The WTOs 134 member nations must vote on Chinas accession at the Seattle conference at the end of the month and U.S. Congressional approval is also necessary.

"This is the first of what I expect will be many steps to opening a lucrative market to many of Floridas agricultural commodities," Crawford said.

For more information about the trade initiative, visit the Departments "Bridge to China" website at www.floridatradeissues.com .


For more information:

Terence McElroy
(850) 488-3022

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