WTO members slam China in 20th anniversary trade policy review
“But those expectations have not come true and it seems that China is unwilling to change,” Bisbee said. “We also cannot ignore reports of China’s use of forced labor in several sectors. “
The harsh criticism follows a similar speech by U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai earlier this month, in which she announced her intention to resume talks with Beijing on the implementation of the Phase 1 trade deal. signed by the Trump administration, which also fell short of expectations.
Nearly 50 delegations took the floor to primarily criticize China’s performance over the past two decades. The first day of the two-day review began with a summary of the WTO Secretariat’s report on the Chinese economy, followed by a virtual presentation by Chinese Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao, who attended from Beijing.
The secretariat’s report, neutral in tone, notes that the Chinese economy has been a major engine of global growth since its last trade policy review in 2018. It also chronicles the long-term structural changes in the Chinese economy, passing from agriculture and industry to services; and China’s progress in reducing poverty through strong GDP growth and market-oriented reforms.
China’s defense: Wang has defended China’s role as a member of the WTO, in line with the report Beijing prepared for the review, a Geneva trade official said. China said it had received more than 1,600 written questions from 40 WTO members, to which it had already responded in writing, the Geneva official said.
Wang also said that China supports reform of the WTO with the aim of improving its rules, strengthening the multilateral trading system and defending the rights of developing members, the Geneva official said.
Winking at a major concern of the United States, Wang also said that China was ready to be pragmatic about its insistence on maintaining the right to claim the “special and differential treatment” accorded to countries in the United States. development under WTO rules, said the Geneva official.
These rules allow China, and any other member, to identify themselves as developing countries, which gives them the right to make less onerous trade commitments in new WTO agreements. The United States urged China to drop its request for special and differential treatment, given its enormous role in the international trading system.
The view from the Indo-Pacific: Among other delegations that spoke on Wednesday morning, Australia joined the United States in making some of the harshest criticisms. Australia has faced a number of aggressive trade actions from China in the past 18 months, after calling for an international investigation into the causes of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Australian representative said that China is increasingly testing global trade rules and standards by adopting practices inconsistent with WTO commitments. The speaker also urged Beijing to play a more constructive leadership role within the WTO, in particular by renouncing its access to special and differential treatment, relayed the Geneva official.
Australia also says the implications of China’s actions against its exporters highlight the risk and uncertainty of the Chinese market for the global business community, the Geneva official said.
Bisbee supported the Australian speaker on this point.
“If another WTO member denounces or offends China, China’s response has increasingly been to use its economic clout to pressure the offending country to ‘correct its mistakes’,” Bisbee said.
Japan urged China to take further steps to maintain and strengthen the multilateral trading system, starting with addressing issues that impact markets, such as measures that distort trade, state-owned enterprises and the market. lack of clarity of laws and regulations in this regard, said a Geneva official.
South Korea complained that abusive practices regarding trademark registration and examination persist in China despite the country’s improvement in its legal framework for intellectual property rights, the Geneva official said.
The Seoul representative also urged China to complete negotiations to join the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement to further liberalize its services and investment sectors.
India has expressed frustration with its growing trade deficit with China, and complained in particular about a number of Chinese obstacles to Indian agricultural products, the Geneva official said.
The view from Europe, UK, Canada: The European Union, United Kingdom and Canada echoed many of the concerns expressed by the United States.
EU Ambassador João Aguiar Machado said China had benefited greatly from its decision to join the WTO, but had failed to meet expectations in terms of liberalizing its economy.
“We looked forward to the process of reform and opening-up to continue at high speed,” Machado said. “But the degree to which China has reformed and opened up today is not commensurate with its weight in the world economy, nor comparable to the access that China has to the markets of other Members of the WTO. “
He also complained that China’s state economic system distorts world markets, causing systemic problems for world trade.
UK Ambassador to the WTO Simon Manley said his government was among those “concerned about the centrality of SOEs to China’s industrial strategies and the opacity of their operations “.
“For us, it behooves China to be much more transparent in demonstrating that these companies operate as normal market players,” Manley said.
Canada has also complained about the preferential treatment accorded by China to its state-owned enterprises and its intensive use of industrial subsidies that lead to trade distortions and overcapacity, the Geneva trade official said.
And after: China will have another chance to speak when the two-day review concludes on Friday.