China has made remarkable progress in opening its economy since it joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) five years ago, former US Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky told Xinhua recently in an exclusive interview.
"China's implementation of WTO commitments has in general been good, though there are several areas of concerns expressed by the US, the EU and others," said Barshefsky, one of the architects of China's WTO agreement in 2001.
"Most notably, with respect to intellectual property protection (IPR), with respect to services market opening, China is still completing its commitments under the WTO," she said.
These two areas, IPR and services, are very important, she said, adding that "there are quite visible signs of China's implementation of its WTO commitments."
In view of its economic size, it is increasingly important for China to do everything it can to implement fully its WTO commitments, Barshefsky said, but she also thought "as a general matter, China has made quite remarkable progress in opening its economy, in welcoming imports and in inviting foreign investments."
The fact that China has remade its economy as a spur to global growth should not be ignored, she said.
Mentioning China's "very rapid, very substantial, very consistent" economic development, Barshefsky said "China is no longer a bystander in the world economy."
"It has become an important hub in the global economy and as such it takes on responsibilities beyond merely its own economic development," she added.
Barshefsky said that China has actively assisted the management of global economy and played an important role in policy making alongside the European Union, the United States, Japan and others.
When asked about trade disputes between China and the US and the EU, Barshefsky said that she is "very much in favor of negotiation."
"I am not in the position to say whether China or the US fully explored all possible negotiated solutions, or whether China or Europe fully explored all possible negotiated solutions. I certainly hope all sides did, because that would take out better outcomes for everybody."
"Trade sanctions often do not solve problems, but sometimes mutual cooperation can. So, every opportunity always has to be given to try to find the negotiated solution before any further steps are taken," noted the chief trade negotiator and principal trade policy maker for the Untied States from 1997 to 2001.
About Doha round global trade talks, Barshefsky said that "it will be good to see Doha conclude in a positive way. All countries have to be flexible."
Talking about the agriculture disputes between developed and developing countries, the trade expert said that subsidies by the US and Europe to agriculture must come down substantially. Export subsides should be eliminated and domestic subsidies should be cut very dramatically.
"Unless that happens, the trade effect for poorer countries will not be particularly significant at all. And that will be an unfortunate outcome for something called 'the development round'," she said.
Recalling the negotiation for China's entry into the WTO, Barshefsky said that "China is a very, very tough negotiating partner."
"China and the US share a very important common characteristic, and that is we are practical people," she said.
Because both the Chinese people and American people share this common characteristic, she said, "we were often able to overcome differences, even political differences, by simply coming up with a practical solution that benefited both sides."
"I think the Chinese side particularly excelled at this, but the US side did as well. So, even on complicated issues, we could find a situation to come to agreement, and that really led to the kind of historic outcome that was achieved," she said.
Barshefsky mentioned that "trade is the foundation of the US-China relationship. It causes friction, of course, but also great benefits for both countries."
"I think the challenge for the US and China is to learn how to cooperate in a meaningful way," said the former US top trade official.
Now a Senior International Partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, Barshefsky said that the famous law company represents many, many American companies and European and Japanese companies investing in China.
"We are very actively involved in China," she said.
(Xinhua News Agency December 7, 2006)