WTO Review of China’s Trade Policy: Statement by the United Kingdom

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Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

UK Secretary of Commerce Anne Marie Trevelyan has asked me to convey her thanks to the Chairperson, as well as to our discussant, Ambassador Mlumbi-Peter, for facilitating this Trade Policy Review. I would like to express my thanks to the WTO Secretariat for their hard work in producing the report. I also extend a very warm welcome to the Chinese delegation – led by Minister Wang Wentao and Vice Minister Wang Shouwen – and of course to the team here in Geneva.

As others have said, it has been twenty years since China joined the WTO and the global trading landscape has changed during that time. And as others have noted, China’s share in world trade has grown from around 8.5% to almost 11% over the decade to 2019 and is expected to increase further to 12%. by 2030. This increase in trade has of course been a major contributor to China’s growth and helped lift millions out of poverty. I would like to congratulate China on behalf of the UK for this important achievement.

All of this is possible because we have an open, rules-based, transparent and non-discriminatory world trading system. We – like others – expect China to play a full and responsible role in respecting this agreement, in particular by agreeing to make commitments commensurate with its level of development and its economic capacity. So in the context of the negotiations on fisheries subsidies – to which others have referred – we have heard China say that it does not intend to adopt large-scale special and differential treatment. We warmly welcome this direction and look forward to seeing how this commitment comes to fruition through the negotiations and, indeed, the broader discussions here at the WTO.

We recognize China’s recent progress in opening up its markets to international trade and investment. We welcome China’s engagement in plurilateral initiatives such as the JSI on Investment Facilitation, Electronic Commerce and Domestic Regulation, as well as the Trade and Health Initiative, the Informal Pollution Dialogue. by environmentally sustainable plastics and plastics – all good initiatives. China’s changes to reform and liberalize will, in our view, be beneficial to both WTO members and Chinese citizens. And they also support China’s economic development.

The success of this economic development means that China has reached a point where the pace, scale and implementation of its market opening need to accelerate. This will give more meaning to China’s own calls for an open, rules-based, transparent and non-discriminatory trading system.

Madam President – if I may – I would now like to highlight several areas which we believe require China’s attention and action.

First, Chinese companies continue to enjoy much higher levels of access to foreign markets than their foreign counterparts in China. Along with this lack of reciprocity comes a growing perception of injustice among many WTO members, which should be of concern to China as well.

The challenge is not simply that of formal market access. Despite improvements in the detection and seizure of counterfeit goods, counterfeits – for example – continue to be produced and exported at high levels. Foreign companies continue to report significant concerns about equal treatment with local businesses, inconsistent application of regulations, subjective licensing regimes, opaque phytosanitary requirements, hidden subsidies, and restricted government procurement.

As the Secretariat report clearly tells us, the size of the Chinese economy and government support programs for industrial sectors can significantly distort the market in favor of China and to the detriment of foreign companies and free international trade and commerce. fair.

Second, like others, we are also concerned about the central role of state-owned enterprises in China’s industrial strategies and the opacity of their operations. These state-owned enterprises number around 326,000 and represent more than 20 of China’s 25 largest companies. This market domination and the way these state-owned enterprises operate put both domestic private enterprises and foreign investors at a disadvantage. We recall, in this context, that China has committed through its Protocol of Accession (and repeated since in the Chinese government’s report to the WTO prior to this review) not to hamper the functioning and management public enterprises.

For us, it behooves China to be much more transparent in demonstrating that these companies operate as normal market players.

Indeed, increased transparency is essential to increase confidence in China’s political intentions. With this in mind, we call on the Chinese government to commit to publishing all documents related to its three-year reform plan for its state-owned enterprises, so that it is clear what is and what is not led by the government. government.

Continuing on the same topic of transparency, we also share the concerns expressed by other Members regarding China’s continued failure to comply with transparency obligations under the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures.

We would like to stress, Madam Chairperson, that we are closely following reports of China’s trade actions deliberately targeting certain countries’ goods for political reasons – as others have cited here today. Market players will draw their own conclusions. But in the long run, such actions undermine market confidence that China does indeed want the open, rules-based, transparent and non-discriminatory system I referred to earlier. This is another area where China could act – we believe – with more transparency.

Finally, forced labor, where and when it occurs, is unacceptable. We therefore call on China to ratify and effectively implement the ILO Forced Labor Convention, including the 2014 Protocol and the Abolition of Forced Labor Convention. We will continue to monitor Chinese actions through the WTO – but also through the ILO.

In conclusion, Mr. Chairman: China’s transformation over the past 20 years has been remarkable, and China should be proud of it. But as a trade superpower, China now has a special responsibility to ensure that it engages in free and fair trade. The UK, for its part, looks forward to continuing to work with China with a sense of shared responsibility to safeguard and strengthen the multilateral trading system, of which we are both so proud members.


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