China’s WTO Membership Brought Beijing a Very Active Role in Global Trade
In November China marked 15 years since becoming a World Trade Organization (WTO) member, a WTO official applauded not only the progress made since Y 2001 but also Beijing’s active role within the global trade body and increasing leadership and vision on multilateral platforms.
“China has shown the world what being open, being part of an open economy can do in terms of development, poverty elimination and prosperity,” WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell said recently in an interview.
“China has a basic pragmatism where it doesn’t believe in pushing people beyond their red lines or the space that they cannot go outside of in order to get a deal. I think that kind of pragmatic approach is something that is very much appreciated,” he added.
While lauding China’s remarkable strides in eliminating poverty, Mr. Rockwell also noted that China’s economy has benefited from enhanced trading relations, the fruit of many years of preparation before becoming gaining WTO membership in December 2001.
By showing “very serious commitment” from the get-go, Beijing’s implementation of a range of complex reforms paved the way towards its successful role within WTO today, he said.
Since Y 2001, both the world and China have indeed greatly benefited from enhanced trading partnerships which are supported by rules and guidelines underpinning WTO’s global mandate.
Combined with Beijing’s “broad and deep” WTO participation, China’s economic strength has made the country steadfast in the face of economic adversity while also bringing much needed respite to countries going through financial crises.
“When the great recession hit in 2008-2009, the fact that China was one of the few countries not affected and continued to buy goods and services from other parts of the world, this helped countries stabilize their economies and get back on their feet,” he said.
Earlier this year, WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo said that China’s role within the organisation has gone from strength to strength.
As well as underscoring Beijing’s ability to defend its interests while showing awareness of the systemic implications of its position, the Brazilian official praised China’s role in helping members ink important trade covenants such as the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).
Known as the Bali package, the TFA lays out directives to expedite the movement, release and clearance of goods so as to reduce the overall cost of trading.
It is the 1st multilateral agreement to be reached since the organization came into being over 20 years ago.
In the same vein, Mr. Azevedo praised China’s stance at the 2015 10th WTO ministerial conference in Nairobi, where ministers played a pivotal part in attempting to push negotiations in the right direction.
Though China’s stance within the trade body did not happen overnight, Mr. Rockwell noted that Beijing began to actively participate in a range of activities once it had gained an in-depth understanding of WTO proceedings.
Leading by example on a range of trade issues, including highly complex discussions relating to electronic commerce, Mr. Rockwell said that China’s role now transcends the realms of WTO meetings and agreements.
“You are seeing Chinese leadership in evidence in many other forums internationally,” whether it’s the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, or the Belt and Road initiative, he said.
“All of these things show the China is keen to create international tools to help with development, to help with economic growth and help stabilize relations between countries,” he added.
While acknowledging that China doesn’t always see eye-to-eye with other trading partners, the official reminded that this is perfectly normal for countries processing thousands of trade-related agreements, policies and ventures.
“The countries most involved in disputes are the big countries, because they trade the most, the most products with the most countries,” Mr. Rockwell explained.
“I think as China becomes more comfortable with the way the system works, I would say at the moment they are one of the biggest defenders of the WTO,” he concluded.
Taking over from the now defunct General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the WTO came into being in Y 1995. To date, the global trade body has 164 members.