Having fulfilled all of its WTO accession commitments, China strives to strengthen the organization’s authority and efficiency
It has been 20 years since China joined the World Trade Organization to become its 143rd member. China has fulfilled all of its WTO accession commitments by 2010 and has become a key member of the organization.
However, the country’s commitment and respect have been questioned and misinterpreted since joining the WTO in 2001. After joining, WTO members generally need a period of transition to put into practice. implement their commitments, which is recognized by other members. or difficult, they negotiate specific policies and relevant impacts.
For example, the dispute between the European Union and the United States over government subsidies to the aviation industry, which has lasted for more than a decade, has been set aside this year. Although they took retaliatory action as the situation worsened, neither criticized the other. But China with 20 years of membership is still being singled out and facing negative comments from developed countries.
The assessment of China’s compliance with commitments should be based on the legal documents it signed upon accession, China’s Protocol of Accession to the WTO and the report of the Working Party on Accession. from China.
The Chinese government has revised laws, regulations and policies to comply with WTO rules. Since 2001, over 2,300 laws and regulations have been reviewed and revised as necessary by central authorities, and over 190,000 regulations by local authorities.
China has scrupulously fulfilled its commitments when it joined the WTO by providing market access for trade in goods. While significantly reducing import tariffs, it has also worked to eliminate non-tariff barriers. Its overall tariff level fell from 15.3% upon joining the WTO to 7.4%, with bound tariff coverage reaching 100%.
It reduced the average tariff rate for agricultural products to 14.8 percent, far lower than those imposed by other developing WTO members (56 percent) and developed members (39 percent). The rate for non-agricultural products, including manufactures, forestry and fisheries, fell to 6.5 percent, significantly lower than in other emerging markets, and the gap with developed countries narrowed .
More and more companies have obtained the right to process foreign trade transactions. Since July 2004, China has replaced its approval system with a registration system for foreign trade authorizations, thus unleashing the immense vigor of enterprises, especially private enterprises, which has resulted in a boom in foreign trade. in the private sector, and laid the institutional foundation for China’s flourishing cross-border e-commerce. In 2019, Chinese private enterprises overtook foreign-invested enterprises for the first time to become the country’s largest foreign trade entity. They accounted for 46.6% of China’s total foreign trade volume in 2020, up from 6.6% in 2001.
China had honored all its commitments on trade in services in 2007. Of the 160 services sub-sectors classified in the WTO classification into 12 sectors, China opened 100 sub-sectors in nine sectors. It has also actively implemented the negative list system at all levels for market access, relaxing the restrictions on access to foreign investment in the service sector. On July 23, 2020, the government released the 2020 negative list for foreign investment, increasing the opening of key areas of the service sector.
Although some members accuse China of playing on WTO rules on the protection of intellectual property rights, the issue, which is part of China’s commitments to the organization, is at the heart of the country’s concerns.
According to a 2020 China Business Climate Survey released by the American Chamber of Commerce in China, 69% of U.S. companies surveyed believed that intellectual property rights protection in China had improved and reached a new high. The results of the 2020 Business Confidence Survey published by the EU Chamber of Commerce in China showed that 67% of EU companies surveyed rated the effectiveness of Chinese laws and regulations on protecting people. intellectual property rights as “excellent” or “adequate”.
It’s not that China has never been the subject of WTO disputes. From 1995, when the WTO dispute settlement mechanism officially began to operate, until August 2021, 607 disputes were brought to the WTO, and among these cases, the United States was prosecuted. 156 times, the EU 88 times and China 47 times.
However, between 1995 and 2020, the WTO issued 25 arbitral awards in 19 cases against members who failed or delayed in fulfilling their statutory duty, including 18 against the United States and five against the EU. . China was not on the list. The US and EU accusations against China only embody their prejudices against China.
The U.S. government has made several public statements or issued reports on China’s adherence to its WTO commitments, all of which criticize China for keeping certain areas out of reach of foreign investment and supporting domestic manufacturing through industrial development plans and subsidies. Every economy has the right to boost its domestic industry through certain policies, and China’s plans have been designed according to its different stages of economic growth. Now, the US government is generalizing the concept of national security and abusing export control measures, threatening the development of some Chinese companies and the supply chain of industries. As a result, the Chinese government has adopted policies that respond to such unreasonable behavior.
China, being serious about its obligations, has no reason to undermine the current WTO system. Now that the WTO and economic globalization face serious challenges, all members should uphold the WTO-rules-based multilateral trade mechanism in a spirit of mutual benefit, and jointly promote the necessary reform of the WTO. WTO in order to overcome its existential crisis, strengthen its authority and efficiency, and support the stability and healthy development of economic globalization.
The author is Dean of the China Institute for WTO Studies at the University of International Business and Economics. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. Opinions do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.