Stop Moving the Goalposts: Keeping China’s WTO Commitments Clear
The accusing WTO member doesn’t actually care whether China has fulfilled its WTO commitments. In its eyes, only when China reaches the opening and market operation levels it wants will China fulfill its WTO compliance.
In terms of fulfillment of WTO (World Trade Organization) commitments, all members of the organization should be treated equally. First of all, China’s WTO accession commitments, which were made when the country was admitted to the organization in 2001, were record
ed in three documents: Protocol on the Accession of the People’s republic of
China to the WTO and two reports from the working party on the accession of China to the WTO. The two reports specified China’s promises to open up its services market. And the protocol defined the country’s other promises outside the realm of the services market. Second, after years of China’s accession to the WTO, members of the organization should be very clear of China’s compliance with its WTO commitments. For questions as to whether China has opened up in compliance with its commitments, whether it met targets on the time table and whether reforms have been carried out in some areas, the results should be clear. Third, since 2006, the WTO has been performing a trade policy review on China every two years. Every WTO member can supervise China’s fulfillment of its WTO commitments within the WTO framework. If anyone has complaints about China, the two sides can solve the problem within the WTO review mechanism.
However, major disagreements exist between China and a certain developed WTO member on China’s fulfillment of its WTO commitments. In reports submitted by the members’ trade representative office to its Congress in the past few years, this country expressed disappointments about China, claiming that China was not fulfilling certain key commitments it made when it joined the WTO and that supporting China’s admission to the WTO was a mistake. China, of course, strongly disagreed. Since its admission to the WTO, China has strictly abided by WTO rules and implemented its WTO commitments. As early as 2011, China issued a white paper, stating it had comprehensively fulfilled its commitments to the WTO. On June 28, 2018, China released another white paper titled “China and nd the World Trade Organization,” which ich provides a detailed account of China’s a’s fulfillment of its WTO commitments. nts.
China’s account of its fulfillment nt of WTO commitments mainly consists sists of the comparisons between China’s s WTO accession promises and its current implementation. This method is falsifiable — if China were to lie, other her WTO members could easily claim. In fact, using this method solely, the international community has reached consensus that China has fulfilled its WTO TO commitments. However, the aforementioned WTO member has a different nt understanding of this issue. In general, ral, on whether China has obeyed WTO rules, the country reached its conclusion sion primarily based on China’s status quo. uo. As for whether China has broken any ny WTO rules and which specific WTO O rules China has violated, it cannot provide any clear answers. The 2018 report port on China’s WTO compliance about intellectual property (IP) submitted by this member’s trade representative office e to its Congress is a prime example.
First of all, the report admitted that China has changed its laws and regulations on IP rights according to WTO’S O’s Agreement-on-trade-related-aspects-of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). However, the report went on to declare clare that it found China’s acts, policies, and nd practices related to IP still discriminatory and a burden on the country’s exports orts and investments. Thus, this member r identified China on the Priority Watch ch List in its 2017 Special 301 report. Under nder WTO framework, IP related rules are re stipulated in the TRIPS agreement. Since this member already admitted that China has abided by the TRIPS agreement, it has no standing to attack ack China in the IP realm. It is a typical “my country first” theory: It blames s China only because it believes China’s a’s
IP protection exerts a negative impact on its own interests. Actually, the two sides have little dispute on China’s status quo. The major divergence is that China believes it has fulfilled its WTO compliance based on its WTO accession promises while this developed member state moved the goalposts on China’s WTO accession promises and has deliberately set new standards based on its own interests. It believed that these new standards should be China’s promises or the level China should reach. This country doesn’t care whether China fulfilled the commitments that were made to the WTO. In its eyes, only when China reaches the opening and market operation levels it wants will China fulfill its WTO compliance.
This country believes that China’s operation system hasn’t been market-oriented enough, and that WTO rules cannot constrain China’s “twisted” market behavior. It argues this harms its interests and causes losses to its domestic manufacturers, farmers, service enterprises, innovators, workers and consumers. This WTO member believes that although much of China’s “improper” behavior can be managed by WTO rules, substantial loopholes exist to circumvent WTO direct supervision that were omissions from China’s WTO accession promises.
China should take active measures to clearly exhibit how it has fulfilled its WTO commitments. China should also become more aware of the challenges it will face in future development. It should inspire more WTO members to realize that this specific member’s reports on China’s WTO compliance are inaccurate and biased.
November 9, 2016: In the Moscow warehouse of a Chinese international e-commerce logistics enterprise, a local worker prepares goods for the upcoming Single’s Day online shopping festival on November 11. Xinhua