SOURCE / GT VOICE
GT Voice: WTO chief makes a point: do not target China
Published: Apr 28, 2021 08:08 PM
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Photo: AFP

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Photo: AFP



Since Joe Biden took over the White House on January 20, the US has been pushing for what it calls an allied approach against China on trade and other issues. So far, that approach appears to be gaining some traction, as the US and some of its allies, including the EU and Japan, are reportedly mulling harsher trading rules targeting China.

Chinese officials have repeatedly registered their displeasure with such an approach of forming small circles or clans among so-called democratic economies to harm other countries' interests. 

However, China's legitimate concerns have been largely overshadowed by what appears to be a coordinated smearing campaign against China by the West and their media. Not many countries, including developing economies that may also be targeted by the West's "tougher" rules against China, spoke up. Even if some did, their voices are often ignored.

But at the EU's trade policy day this week, where EU officials repeated long-standing grievances against China's industrial policies and the state-owned companies, the new head of the WTO offered a very powerful and pragmatic repudiation of the group's approach to gang up on China.

"I'll just be very open," said Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who made history in March when she became the first woman and first African to head the WTO, as she warned against targeting China. "When China feels it's being targeted and it's only about China, then you get a lot of resistance."

In the speech, Okonjo-Iweala went further to warn countries not to "use the WTO or trade as kind of a weapon to solve" political issues. She did not name names, but that is a reference to the plan pushed by the US, the EU and Japan to try to "weaponize the WTO" and international trading rules to serve their ill-willed, selfish political interests in containing China's economic rise.

The WTO chief was eloquent and understandably diplomatic in issuing a dire warning against such a dangerous trend in global multilateral trading system. But in case some in the West might need a more straightforward reminder, here is the bottom line: The era when a small group of powers can decide others' fate is long gone. The global multilateral system is no longer a tool that they can deploy at will.

Moreover, today's China is no longer the same country that was easily invaded by the so-called Eight-Nation Alliance over a century ago. It is now the world's second-largest economy, the world's largest trading nation, and the biggest contributor to global economic growth. China will not be intimidated and pushed around by a few so-called advanced countries. 

To put the WTO chief's warning into more blunt terms, China will not sit idle and allow the US and its allies to use the WTO as a weapon against itself. Any such attempt should and will be met with forceful resistance.

And that resistance won't just come from China. The US and its allies might being targeting China directly, but whatever reform plans they push forward at the WTO will also hit other developing countries, which have similar economic policies and development plans as China. In fact, while the US and its allies may have put China on the spotlight, their true intention is to pull the WTO and global trading rules further into their favor and away from the developing economies.

The WTO, whose operations and authority have been seriously undermined by the US, is in dire need of reform. But any reform plan should be discussed and decided by all of its 150 or so members, not just by the US and its allies. The reforms should make the WTO more balanced to serve not only advanced economies - as it is in many cases - but also developing economies - which make up two-thirds of its membership.


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