​Experts: WTO should fight unilateralism

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, September 5, 2018
Adjust font size:

Experts attending a roundtable dialogue on World Trade Organization (WTO) modernization agenda in Beijing recently discussed emerging and existing issues in the context of US-China trade tensions.

Experts exchange views at a roundtable event entitled "Dialogue on WTO Modernization Agenda" in Beijing on Aug. 23, 2018. [Photo courtesy of CCG]

The Beijing-based Center for China and Globalization (CCG) held the roundtable event on Aug. 23 in collaboration with the leading Swiss think tank Center for International Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) and the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) of China.

Sun Zhenyu, Chairman of China Society for WTO Studies and former Ambassador of China to the organization, said a global trade war was a dysfunctional and highly complicated issue. He emphasized that the WTO's reform process should not only work for developed countries but also include developing countries.

"The WTO should bear in mind the purpose of reform," Sun said, "The major urgent challenge is the threat of unilateralism and trade protectionism. We cannot allow a single member to put their own domestic rules and regulations above WTO rules and regulations. WTO's rules, regulations and very basic principles must be preserved."

There should be stricter rules to prevent some countries from abusing "national security" and using it as an excuse for trade protectionism. "If you try to claim your national security is threatened by some normal trade on goods, I think that's ridiculous. You cannot simply take the pretext of the so-called 'national security' and [introduce] large scale State intervention into the normal trade between countries," he stressed.

Regarding intellectual property rights issues, Sun said it was wrong for any government to force enterprises to transfer their patented technology to other countries if they were not willing to do so. Equally, it would be wrong for a government to prevent enterprises from transferring these technologies if they so desired, or to ban such transfers outright,"The very fundamental purpose of this is to encourage the free flow of technology so that we can make more contribution to the progress of humanity and benefit the whole world."

In the context of the US-China trade war, American dissatisfaction with the WTO and its criticism of China's relevant policies had persisted for a long time. Points of contention include the WTO Appellate Body's negative ruling on the practice of zeroing in the US anti-dumping investigation, Article 15 of the China's WTO accession protocol, the Special and Differential Treatment enjoyed by emerging economies, and the government's role in the overall economy. Unlike previous governments, President Donald Trump has adopted a fiercely unilateralist approach.

Ricardo Meléndez-Ortiz, CEO of ICTSD, said he was "actually very excited and optimistic" of seeing a shake-up in the multilateral trade system. The world had changed a lot since the WTO was established and had moved into an era of widespread global production, investment and trade, while more regional trade cooperation and related mechanisms were emerging, so that WTO was now required to play a different role than before.

He said the WTO still focused on issues related to the trade of goods and tariffs, while information and data had yet to be included in the trade framework. This meant it lagged far behind the development of the digital economy and thus should be an important aspect of WTO reform.

The United States, the EU and Japan proposed a number of WTO reform recommendations in their tripartite statement released on May 31, including State industrial subsidies, State-owned enterprises and market conditions, intellectual property rights protection, and compulsory technology transfers.

Meanwhile, the EU has also completed internal recommendations on WTO reform. In addition to the topics covered by the tripartite statement, its reform plan also involves development issues, the daily work of the WTO, etc. Additionally, the China-EU High Level Economic and Trade Dialogue is planning to set up a working group on WTO reform issues.

On Aug. 30, President Donald Trump threatened to pull out of the WTO unless it adopts rules more favorable to the United States. "If they don't shape up, I would withdraw from the WTO," he told Bloomberg.

Regarding Sino-US trade, Meléndez-Ortiz said the Trump administration was trying to bring investment and manufacturing back to the United States by imposing tariffs; however, this was not wise in the long run.

China proposed a reform plan many years ago, but such a program takes a long time to achieve, and China should further promote the implementation of the reform. From the perspective of responsibility, the settlement of Sino-US trade disputes should focus on the level of rules rather than the market access level. The two countries should resolve disputes through active dialogue in the trade system, he said.

China had played an important role in the trading system and made important contributions to both the United Nations and the WTO, and together with other countries to the promotion of investment and development under the WTO framework, he said, adding that China will also benefit from further reforms in the WTO.

Among those attending the roundtable were Zhou Xiaoming, former deputy permanent representative at the Permanent Mission of China to the UN Office in Geneva, Adam Dunnett, secretary-general of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, Jacob Parker, vice president of US-China Business Council China Operation, Sun Yongfu, CCG senior fellow and former director-general of the Department of European Affairs of the Ministry of Commerce, Su Qingyi, senior researcher from the Institute of World Economics and Politics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and Li Siqi, assistant professor with the China Institute for WTO Studies of UIBE.

Follow China.org.cn on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
ChinaNews App Download
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from China.org.cnMobileRSSNewsletter