Georgia’s agricultural businesses could benefit significantly from China’s membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO), local officials told GlobalFax last week. But several voiced their concern that the development of China’s legal system will not keep pace with its business prospects.

          “The benefits to American agriculture and the U.S. poultry and egg industry will be almost immediate,” said Jim Sumner, president of the Stone Mountain-based USA Poultry and Egg Export Council (USAPEEC). Mr. Sumner issued a statement following the successful conclusion of negotiations last week that pave the way for China’s accession to the WTO.

          Andres Villegas, director of international trade for the Georgia Department of Agriculture, underscored Georgia’s top position among U.S. states for poultry and peanut production, which are both highly in demand in China.

          Even Taiwan, which also expects to be approved for WTO membership, anticipates substantial trade benefits from China’s accession. Alice Wang, director of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Atlanta, said that Taiwan would step up its efforts to market itself as an operational base and source of skilled labor for Georgia companies seeking a foothold in southeast Asia.

          Michael Horten, an attorney who has been involved in brokering U.S.-China business deals since 1979 and is co-founder of the Atlanta-based Opportunos Consulting Group, called the settlement of the negotiations, “one of the few economic bright spots on the world map right now.”

          He remained skeptical, however, that while laws to protect U.S. firms doing business in China may be on the books, they will not always be properly enforced in Chinese courts.

          Lani Wong, president of Atlanta’s National Association of Chinese Americans, said that China’s government is in the process of instituting a legal system for business transactions, but still has far to go in protecting the rights of international firms locating in the country.

          Mr. Villegas may be reached at (404) 656-3740, Mr. Horten at (770) 436-7834, Ms. Wang at (404) 552-0481 and Ms. Wong at (770) 394-6542.