Undoubtedly, China's WTO membership is a milestone in its reform and opening-up. Over the past 17 years, as a major developing trading nation China has made great contributions to the WTO's multilateral trading system as well as supporting nearly 30 percent of annual global economic growth, having cut its overall tariff level from 15.3 percent to 9.8 percent, bringing a market of 1.3 billion people into the global trading system.
China's remarkable achievements in economic and social terms are reflected in the following facts: China has become the 2nd largest economy in GDP terms, largest merchandise exporter, 2nd largest merchandise importer, 4th largest commercial services exporter, 3rd largest commercial services importer, top destination for inward FDI among developing countries and top investor for outward FDI among developing countries.
It can be said that China's membership in the WTO has expanded the universality of WTO membership and strengthened the multilateral trading system. Since opening up its economy, China has made contributions to the global trading system by improving the stability, predictability and transparency of a large number of regulations that favor trade and economic activities, in addition to enhancing employment.
Hailing China's role in helping other WTO member countries, WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo said on July 6, 2016: "China has always been a very strong supporter of multilateralism and of the WTO and has been very constructive in negotiations."
It is pertinent to note here that since its entry into the WTO, China has shifted its position from being a rule-taker to a rule-maker. Over the past 17 years, China revised its laws and regulations in line with international rules under the WTO which have been documented in the White Paper titled "China and the World Trade Organization" published on June 28, 2018. It was released at a time when the United States under President Donald Trump is jeopardizing the rules-based global trading system.
Surely, the White Paper is China's open reply to the United States' trade protectionism with cold war and zero-sum mentality towards China. It has assured the world that China will continue to open up to foreign investment in "a more comprehensive, profound and diversified way."
It can be seen that the Trump administration does not like to celebrate China's achievements as a member of the WTO and its support for the countries struggling with weak economies to stand on their own feet. With a biased look at China's compliance with WTO commitments, the Trump administration said in January this year that "the United States erred in supporting China's entry into the WTO on terms that have proven to be ineffective in securing China's embrace of an open, market-oriented trade regime."
On March 22 this year, President Trump signed a memorandum that would impose 25 percent tariff on up to 50 billion U.S. dollars of imports from China and impose new restrictions on Chinese investment in the United States. And in doing so, the United States has broken WTO rules, instead of seeking a solution through the WTO which deals with the rules of trade between nations. It is obvious from Trump's heated rhetoric against the WTO that he thinks the WTO stands in the way of his "America First" slogan, an exercise in protectionism.
The Trump administration needs to take an honest and unbiased look at China's achievements fulfilling its WTO commitments. China has become a major trading partner of more than 120 countries and regions. China's imports and exports affect their markets. According to the IMF report, China now accounts for more than 12 percent of world exports and 10 percent of imports. So far, over 80 countries, including Russia, New Zealand and Australia, have recognized China's status as a market economy.
The U.S. and the European Union accused China of intellectual property rights (IPR) theft. Applying a unilateral approach, the U.S. government launched a Section 301 Investigation into China's alleged IPR theft in August 2017.
Although IPR protection in China is far from flawless, the Chinese government has attached great importance to the protection of IPR. Since 2001, China has joined nearly all the international conventions on IPR protection. The Supreme People's Court established its IPR Division to oversee and process national cases. China set up three IPR courts in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou in 2014. At the annual Boao Forum for Asia in April, Xi Jinping pledged that China would robustly protect foreign intellectual property in tune with the lifting of hi-technology curbs by developed nations. Thus, China's initiatives of protecting IPR need to be applauded rather than opposed.
It is hoped that all members of the WTO join hands to combat the rising trend of protectionism and bring the general public more benefits from global trade.
Rabi Sankar Bosu, Secretary of New Horizon Radio Listeners' Club, West Bengal, India