Details on the agreement reached by China on the terms of its accession to the World Trade Organisation, thereby opening up the world's potentially largest consumer market to international drinks manufacturers, distributors and retailers, have been revealed in a briefing paper.

The sweeping agreement to bring China into the international trading system will mean large cuts in tariffs on goods exported to that country as well as giving Western firms rights to establish ventures within it. The deal will also of course mean Chinese compliance with WTO trading rules.

Under the agreement outlined in Geneva last week and warmly welcomed by the European Union, tariffs on all spirits will be aligned to 10% from the present 65%. There will be no differentiation between the treatment of whisky, cognac, gin and other spirits. The tariff on wine will be reduced from 65% to 14% and that on beer will be completely eliminated.

As well as reducing tariffs, China has committed itself to removing all of its import quotas by 2005. The European Commission said it was an "extremely substantial market-opening package" which, coupled with a widespread right to trade and distribute freely within China, meant that "the opportunities for EU manufacturers to participate in one of the world's largest markets will become real at last."