context: As China celebrates the 20th anniversary of its accession to the WTO, it continues to receive criticism on its unfair trade practices in SOEs subsidies, unilateral trade sanctions, IPR infringements and other trade-distorting measures as harming the global trade system. Despite a recent MoF (Ministry of Finance) announcement opposing discrimination against foreign firms in government procurement activities, China still does not meet the membership requirements of WTO’s Government Procurement Agreement after submitting applications on seven occasions.

A press conference on WTO’s 8th review of China’s trade policies was jointly held by SCIO (State Council Information Office) and MofCOM (Ministry of Commerce) on 28 Oct 2021. The press conference highlighted

  • WTO’s positive comments
    • thanking China for eliminating tariffs for least developed countries and helping them integrate into the multilateral trade system
  • arguments countering WTO criticisms
    • new revisions of Administrative Permission Law and the Foreign Investment Law both ban forced technology transfers through admin measures
    • China’s average goods import tariffs at 7.4 percent are lower than the average of developing countries; for trade in services, almost 120 subcategories have been opened up, exceeding China’s WTO commitment of 100
    • China submitted its 2019-2020 industrial subsidy report in time, one of the most challenging commitments for developing member countries
    • China has enjoyed less special treatment as a developing country and overshot a number of voluntary targets
  • support for WTO reform
    • reform topics
      • ag subsidy rules
        • some developed countries heavily subsidy ag industry
        • ag subsidy should be discussed together with industrial subsidy to ensure fair competition in both areas
      • tightening regulations to address the overuse of trade remedy measures
      • restoring non-actionable subsidies to free up policy space for member countries in combating COVID-19 and climate change
      • public grain security
      • fishery subsidy
    • dispute settlement mechanism
      • resuming the normal operation of the WTO appellate body to prevent bullying behaviour in trade disputes
    • reform methods
      • for traditional topics, supporting negotiations based on principle of consensus
      • for emerging trade topics such as digital e-commerce rules about which not all members can reach an agreement in the short-term, suggesting the form of a joint statement initiative to allow the exploration of specific rules and best practices