20 years since entry into WTO, China wins widespread recognition for honoring promise

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By Ouyang Jie, People’s Daily

China puts a lot of effort into and carefully makes arrangements for the World Trade Organization (WTO) trade policy review every time, and takes seriously every question from WTO members, which fully manifests China’s commitment to multilateral trading system and indicates that it attaches great importance to the reviews of the WTO, China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOC) said at a recent press conference.

China has laid great stress on WTO’s trade policy review all along since its accession to the international organization in 2001, said Wang Shouwen, China’s vice minister of commerce and deputy China International Trade Representative, at a press conference on WTO’s eighth trade policy review of China.

“Trade policy review is one of the three major functions of the WTO, and the other two are acting as a forum for trade negotiations and handling trade disputes between its members,” Wang said, explaining that according to the existing rules, the WTO reviews China’s trade policies every three years and that the organization has conducted the eighth trade policy review of China recently.

During the latest trade policy review, China’s commerce minister Wang Wentao pointed out in his keynote speech that through untiring struggle and efforts as well as adherence to its reform and opening-up policy, China has achieved leapfrog economic development, providing huge opportunities for the world and making outstanding contributions to global economic development.

The commerce minister noted in his speech that over the past two decades since its entry into the WTO, China has strictly followed WTO rules, earnestly fulfilled its WTO commitments, and been a firm supporter of, active participant in, and important contributor to multilateral trading system. He also stressed that China has contributed to the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic with practical actions.

“A total of 65 representatives of WTO members spoke at the conference session of the eighth WTO trade policy review of China. And they made positive comments about China,” Wang Shouwen said.

These representatives affirmed that China has actively participated in WTO activities, earnestly fulfilled its WTO commitments, actively taken part in WTO negotiations on fisheries subsidies, led the way in promoting negotiations on investment facilitation, and constructively participated in negotiations on e-commerce, according to the vice minister of commerce.

They spoke highly of China’s important role in international anti-epidemic cooperation and praised China for supporting the WTO in making an early decision on waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, he said.

Representatives of WTO members also expressed gratitude to China for granting zero-tariff treatment on imports from the least developed countries and helping other developing members and the least developed nations integrate into the multilateral trading system, according to Wang.

Representatives fully affirmed China’s efforts to voluntarily lower tariffs, shorten its negative lists for foreign investment access, continuously expand market access, actively promote facilitation and liberalization of trade and investment, and offer a broad market to WTO members, Wang said.

They believe that the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) gains huge potential for boosting trade and economic cooperation among relevant countries and has brought more opportunities for development to cooperative partners of China, he added.

“This year marks the 20th anniversary of China’s accession to the WTO. If you look at the timetable for China’s WTO obligations, you can see that we have fully fulfilled our obligations under the WTO as well as our commitments to the organization. And several directors-general of the WTO and the vast majority of WTO members have given full affirmation and wide recognition to our performance in this regard,” Wang said.

China has made active efforts to align itself with the WTO rules, according to Wang, who disclosed that after China joined the WTO, the central government of China has reviewed more than 2,000 trade-related laws, regulations, and departmental rules, and local governments across the country have reviewed over 190,000 trade-related local policies, laws, and regulations.

Meanwhile, the country has made sure that its newly-formulated policies, laws, and regulations are completely in conformity with WTO rules, Wang noted.

The country has made consistent efforts to open its market to the rest of the world, Wang said, explaining that when China joined the WTO, its import tariffs stood at 15.3 percent on average, and it promised to reduce its average tariff level for imported goods to 9.8 percent. Now the country’s overall import tariff level has been cut down to 7.4 percent, lower than that of all developing members and close to that of developed members of the WTO, according to Wang.

The WTO accession protocol and relevant working group reports stipulated that China needed to open 100 sub-sectors in nine categories in 2007, while the country has so far actually opened nearly 120 sub-sectors, overfulfilling its commitments, Wang said.

China has abided by WTO rules over the past two decades, according to Wang, who said that China has reported the introduction, adjustment to and the implementation of domestic laws to the WTO in a timely manner, with the number of relevant reports exceeding 1,000.

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