China’s entry to the World Trade Organization (WTO) has been accompanied by a significant reduction in the number of anti-dumping measures restricting its foreign trade. Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation (MOFTEC) figures show there were just 47 cases in the first 10 months of WTO membership compared with 67 in the previous full year.
An expert explained that China now has access to WTO rules and working mechanisms as a means of resolving international trade disputes. This has helped exports by effectively improving China’s foreign trade environment.
Since becoming a WTO member, China has worked hard to fulfill its commitments by reducing both tariff and non-tariff trade barriers. Meanwhile China’s trading partners have become bound by WTO rules that serve to restrict their options in applying protectionist measures against Chinese exports. So it is no surprise that China’s international trade environment should have seen some improvement.
In recent years China’s main trading partners have not been slow to take advantage of those anti-dumping and protectionist measures that are allowed under WTO rules. They have used these to restrict imports from China and protect their domestic industries. The measures were taken against a background of a slowdown in global economic development and the intense competition that this generated.
In the period from 1978 to 2001, some 33 countries and regions introduced a total of 498 anti-dumping or other restrictive measures. Together these affected over 4,000 Chinese products representing some US$16 billion of exports. In 2001 alone, 17 countries and regions introduced a record 67 anti-dumping measures against China.
WTO membership has made a difference to China’s international trade environment. China now has recourse not only to bilateral negotiations, but also to multi-lateral negotiations and has an option to appeal to the WTO to assist in settling disputes.
Bilateral disputes are commonly resolved by bilateral negotiations. However not all disputes can be resolved in this way. In a case which hit the headlines, the United States introduced new duties on steel imports known as ‘safeguard measures’ brought in under section 201 of the US Trade Act of 1974. China appealed, using the WTO dispute resolution mechanisms that exist to protect a member nation’s rights and interests. China has also successfully required other countries to change their unfair trading practices under WTO rules.
To promote a fair trading environment for Chinese exporters, government departments have engaged in comprehensive multi-level negotiations with their foreign counterparts over the past year. They have sought recognition of China’s market economy status and called on the other nations to amend or rescind their discriminatory anti-dumping policies directed against China. Considerable progress has been made in the negotiations and anti-dumping charges against Chinese products are increasingly failing to meet with success.
China now has comprehensive measures in place to alert its exporters to anti-dumping and other restrictive or “safeguard” problems. Assistance is also available with the legal issues involved. Help has been provided by MOFTEC, China’s overseas trade institutes, foreign law offices, relevant agencies and foreign importers.
(china.org.cn by Feng Yikun January 1, 2003)