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China's low WTO profile

China seems strangely absent and silent at a trade meeting in China.


China's silence in this matter has several causes. China, among other things, has little experience in leading international negotiations. China joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, and is one of the newest members of the WTO. That is why China is letting other large and poor countries, with growing economies like India and Brazil, hold the tough negotiations. Among the 149 members of the WTO meeting in Hong Kong, China stands out and appears to be a large and uncertain hybrid. While a new member of the WTO and having the world's largest village population, the country has grown to become the sixth largest economy in the world.

China is also one of the world's most export – oriented economies, and does not want to emerge as a threatening colossus. China wants the world to see the country as a challenge and an opportunity, not a threat to the global market. China's low profile is not as popular with everyone, and US Trade Representative Rob Portman has come out with harsh criticism of China's evasive role. "I believe that China, which is an important participant in global world trade, has a responsibility to participate more actively in the negotiations," he said.

Supports free trade

"China supports free trade. China has benefited enormously from the economic reforms we have seen in the last 20 years. Today, foreign trade is very important for China, ”says Ren Yifeng, a researcher at China Society for WTO Studies. But despite the country trying to tread carefully, China's export trade has been blamed for a number of global problems. In particular, criticism has come from the industrial lobby of the US Congress. These accuse China of cementing its currency at such a weak level that the US industry cannot compete.

For its part, China believes that the country is exposed to protectionist measures. During the membership negotiations in 2001, China had to agree to a conditional membership until 2015, and until then, China has the status of a “non-market economy” (non-market economy, NME.Beijing believes that the EU and the US are taking advantage of China's NME status to more easily introduce punitive measures with allegations of dumping of goods. When a WTO member determines the normal price of an NME export product, they can use another country as a substitute to determine the normal price. If the Chinese export price is lower than the normal price in this given country, China may be accused of dumping. China believes that the principle itself is unfair and that a comparison should be made between Chinese export prices and the prices of the same product in the Chinese market. Of the 2500 cases of dumping submitted by the WTO since 1995, 386 were against China, complainants were successful in 272 of these.

Rides two horses

China has a population of 800 million, mainly consisting of small farmers. Therefore, the poor countries support the demand that rich countries should not subsidize their own farmers, but for China it is more important to facilitate industrial exports. Agricultural exports account for four percent of China's total foreign trade. Export of industrial goods, on the other hand, is the engine of the fast-growing Chinese industry, and accounts for most of China's foreign trade. China is also in a phase of change, and raising the standard of living for the rural areas is a priority for the government. This will face difficulties as long as rich countries pursue a restrictive policy on agricultural imports.

Chinese experts like Yifeng believe China does not want to choose between supporting the rich countries 'demands for open markets in industry and the service sector on the one hand, and the poor countries' demands for the removal of agricultural subsidies and tariffs on the other. China wants to ride two horses, and both emphasize its position as a leader of the poor countries, while not wanting to tread important trading partners on their feet. China wants both and, therefore, it is to be expected that China will continue its blunt role in the WTO negotiations taking place on its own.

China is a member of the G20 group, which is a group of large poor countries with growing economies. Other members are India and Brazil, and these two have led the G20 so far. China appears to be content to let these continue to carry the heaviest burden. The only thing that is certain is that China will continue to support free trade. "We are in the process of building a more harmonious society, which means a greater degree of equalization in economic growth. This process is accelerated more by increased free trade than by a collapse of it, "says Yifeng.

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