China must ‘walk the talk’ on trade: Lamy

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

Bei­jing’s pledges to pur­sue trade lib­er­al­iza­tion in the face of a po­ten­tially more pro­tec­tion­ist US un­der Don­ald Trump meant it was time for China to “walk the talk” on the is­sue, for­mer WTO di­rec­tor-gen­eral Pas­cal Lamy said yes­ter­day.

Lamy, also a for­mer EU com­mis­sioner who ne­go­ti­ated China’s en­try into the World Trade Or­gan­i­sa­tion, said that de­spite a rise in anti-glob­al­iza­tion rhetoric, he ex­pected the EU and China to re­main key play­ers in keep­ing in­ter­na­tional trade open.

But, speak­ing in the Chi­nese cap­i­tal, he added: “China has had a lot of talk of trade-open­ing and glob­al­iza­tion, and not much walk. “It is time for China to walk the talk,” he told a con­fer­ence at Ren­min Univer­sity’s Chongyang In­sti­tute for Fi­nan­cial Stud­ies.

US Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump has vowed to ditch the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship (TPP) once tak­ing of­fice, and an­a­lysts say the move could give Bei­jing an op­por­tu­nity to forge ahead with its own trade deals and fill a vac­uum left by any Amer­i­can with­drawal.

“Whether trade-open­ing is done mul­ti­lat­er­ally, bi­lat­er­ally, re­gion­ally, eastwest, north-south, that doesn’t mat­ter,” said Lamy. What mat­ters, he said, was that “ob­sta­cles to trade are re­duced. You go the best op­tion you have”. A US with­drawal from the TPP would have lim­ited im­pact on world trade, he in­sisted. As EU trade com­mis­sioner, Lamy ne­go­ti­ated China’s 2001 en­try into the WTO.

When it joined, it was promised it would at­tain Mar­ket Econ­omy Sta­tus (MES) by the end of 2016 — a sta­tus that would mean that part­ners would have to treat the Com­mu­nist-ruled coun­try as a free mar­ket equal when it comes to set­tling trade dis­putes.

The EU is op­posed to grant­ing it to China, not want­ing to let Bei­jing off the hook over a long se­ries of dis­putes rang­ing from steel to so­lar pan­els. MES was “a po­lit­i­cally-cor­rect no­tion in­vented by po­lite diplo­mats in or­der to not to call Com­mu­nist coun­tries ‘Com­mu­nists’,” said Lamy.

At the time, he said, China wanted a max­i­mum wait­ing pe­riod of 10 years, while the US was push­ing for 20. “The com­pro­mise, sur­prise, sur­prise, was 15 years. Typ­i­cal horse-trad­ing.”

Now lawyers were look­ing at how to re-in­ter­pret the agree­ment, he said. The “EU will recog­nise China as a mar­ket econ­omy, but at the same time will re­vise its anti-dump­ing pro­ce­dures”, he said. — AFP

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