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China, the WTO, and the Environment.

China's membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) is having profound environmental impacts, particularly in agriculture, forestry, aquaculture, automaking, energy, and textiles, according to a report from the government's Task Force on WTO and the Environment. In agriculture, for instance, China's land and water short-ages and labor surpluses suggest that land- and water-intensive farming of grains is shrinking while labor-intensive production of fruits, vegetables, and livestock expands. The loss of grain production is reducing food security and has already led to China's first-ever agricultural trade deficit.


In forestry, accession is leading to adoption of more efficient technologies and improved forest management programs. However, timber importation is growing rapidly, with much of it coming from areas practicing poor forest stewardship. In aquaculture, exports are growing rapidly because aquaculture is labor-intensive and improves food security. Continued growth will depend on protecting the heavily pollution-threatened marine environment.

Despite strict emission standards, the explosive growth of auto usage is creating a major new source of air pollution. But because the current car fleet is small, China can reduce its impacts by maximizing fuel efficiency standards, deterring the use of large vehicles, and stressing mass transit systems. In the energy sector, rapid economic growth is driving energy demand--and thus coal use--sharply upward. Energy conservation, accurate pricing, and clean coal technologies will be essential to reduce demand and environmental impacts. Finally, textile production is expected to continue rising rapidly, especially after the WTO exportation quota expires in 2005. As output increases, so will waste-water releases, and the sheer scale of growth may overwhelm any positive benefits from accession.

China's accession to the WTO offers a unique opportunity to drive ecologically sustainable development. However, without prioritization of environmental concerns it will more likely accelerate ecological damage.
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Title Annotation:ENVIRONMENTAL Intelligence
Author:Assadourian, Erik
Publication:World Watch
Date:Mar 1, 2005
Previous Article:Ocean census reveals how little we know.
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