WTO arbitration won’t affect signing of first-phase China-US deal: experts

By Chen Qingqing and Song Lin Source:Global Times Published: 2019/11/3 21:03:39

Photo: VCG

The first-phase deal arising from China-US trade consultations will not be impacted by the latest arbitration by the World Trade Organization (WTO), which granted China the right to impose $3.6 billion in tariff sanctions against the US, experts said.

It is, however, a demonstration that China has been upholding global multilateralism while the US has wrongly imposed sanctions against other countries, experts noted.

The WTO on Friday announced it would grant China the right to request authorization from the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body to suspend concessions or other obligations at a level not exceeding $3.579 billion annually, according to a statement released by WTO. 

Such requests will be accepted normally, media reports noted, and the figure of $3.579 billion is the third-highest in WTO history.

The case was filed in 2013 by China, requesting consultations with the US regarding the use of certain methodologies in anti-dumping investigations involving Chinese products, read the WTO's online file.

"China has been following international multilateral trade rules to deal with its trade disputes with the US," Gao Lingyun, an expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a think tank, told the Global Times.

The WTO's arbitration, on the other hand, shows that the US has been wrongly imposing sanctions on other countries concerning anti-dumping or countervailing duties, based on its domestic laws instead of international laws, Gao said.

Imposing multibillion-dollar sanctions against the US is considered a significant move amid ongoing trade disputes between China and the US, analysts said. However, it would not affect the positive sentiment arising for the two countries to reach a deal soon. 

"The phase-one deal won't be much of a problem, and this WTO case won't have any impact on that, but a broader trade deal seems more difficult," Huo Jianguo, vice chairman of the China Society for World Trade Organization Studies, told the Global Times on Sunday.

A similar opinion was expressed by the US side. "We do not believe the (WTO) arbitrator's decision will have any impact on continuing trade discussions between the United States and China," the New York Times reported, citing a comment from Trump administration official.

While US officials have been criticizing the WTO playbook as outdated, China is playing an active role in it as part of safeguarding multilateralism. Officials from major trading partners such as Canada and Australia expressed the importance of supporting multilateral systems to solve trade disputes. 

"We rely on the international trade system," Dominic Barton, Canada's ambassador to China, told a panel discussion at the 6th China Inbound-Outbound Forum from Saturday to Sunday. Multilateralism has brought benefits to the public, which should be upheld. 

China plays a very important role in the future of WTO, and its contribution to the WTO's formal agenda is critical, Elizabeth Peak, deputy head of mission of the Australian Embassy in China, said during the panel.

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