China praised for opening-up efforts at WTO review despite 'baseless' criticism
Some members' accusations baseless, against rules: analysts
Published: Oct 21, 2021 11:13 PM
Photo taken on July 15, 2020 shows an exterior view of the World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. (Photo by Li Ye/Xinhua)

Photo taken on July 15, 2020 shows an exterior view of the World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. (Photo by Li Ye/Xinhua)

China's efforts to proactively open up its market, firmly safeguard the multilateral trade system and promote the role of the WTO received positive feedback from members at the first day of the WTO's review of China's trade policies and practices, a spokesperson for China's Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) said on Thursday.

Reported criticism from the US and its allies over China's industrial policies are baseless and against the WTO's rules as they appear to be politicizing multilateral trade issues, Chinese analysts noted, pointing to protectionist and unilateral actions by the US. 

The WTO is conducting its eighth review of China's trade policies and practices, a regular process that takes place every three years, with the first session completed on Wednesday and another session scheduled for Friday. 

Asked by the Global Times about the review at a press briefing on Thursday, Shu Jueting, a spokesperson for the MOFCOM, said that 50 WTO members attended the first session and they "generally recognized" China's role as a major global growth engine and made positive comments about China's adoption of a series of proactive opening-up measures since the last review in July 2018.  

Members also highly praised China's efforts to firmly uphold the multilateral trade system and promote greater role of the WTO and expressed gratitude over China's help in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Shu.

A report released by the WTO Secretariat also noted that since the last review, China's economy has been a major driver of global growth, while the long-term structural changes in China's economy, moving way from agriculture and industry toward services, continued during the review period.

"Remarkable progress on poverty alleviation has been achieved over the past decades, resulting from high GDP growth rates and market-oriented reforms," the report read.

He Weiwen, a former senior trade official and an executive council member of the China Society for WTO Studies, said that over the past two decades, the WTO helped China integrate with the global market based on rules, while China, in return, played a huge role in WTO negotiations and reforms.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of China's accession to the WTO.

However, there were also some criticisms toward China at the review, primarily from the US and its Western allies. On Wednesday, the US again claimed that China's industrial polices "skew the playing field," Reuters reported, citing unnamed sources. 

The US also decried issues related to subsidies for state-owned enterprises, data restrictions and intellectual property rights (IPR) protection, according to Reuters.

Such criticisms are baseless and ignorant of China's reform efforts and contribution to the global economy over the past 20 years, Chinese analysts said, adding that China has repeatedly shortened its negative list of sectors off-limit to foreign firms and continued to open up more sectors such as financial.

Analysts further pointed out that it is the US and some Western countries that are violating WTO rules by imposing restrictions and sanctions against Chinese high-tech companies. 

These clichéd criticisms from some Western countries do not conform to WTO rules, He told the Global Times on Thursday.  

"As the US frequently abuses the concept of national security, China could take the initiative to strike back, for instance, by making a complaint on the US violating WTO rules under the cloak of 'national security,'" he said.

While addressing the WTO meeting on Wednesday via video link, Chinese Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao called on WTO members to jointly oppose unilateralism and protectionism, abandon discriminatory and exclusive standards, rules and systems, and break down walls and barriers cutting apart trade, investment and technologies.

The ministry will respond to the concerns raised by the WTO members on Friday, the second meeting of the trade review.

Regarding China's business environment for foreign firms, the WTO report also noted that China's new Foreign Investment Law, with the aim of improving China's business environment for foreign investors, stipulates that investors are protected against expropriation, restrictions on cross-border remittances, IPR infringement, and forced transfer of technology.

Guan Jian, a partner at Beijing Globe-Law Law Firm, told the Global Times on Thursday that apart from its own rapid growth over the past two decades, China has also become a major player within the WTO supporting developing economies.

"It has not only grown bigger but has also stabilized the world economy. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, China also provided support and aid to developing countries within the WTO framework and other channels," Guan said.