China took strong exception on Jan 25 to recent reports in the United States that pointed fingers at its membership in the World Trade Organization and said such claims are not only false but also ignore the fact that the country is an open and market-oriented economy.
Last week, the US Trade Representative’s office issued two reports on China’s WTO compliance saying that the country has made little progress in aligning its economy with the commitments it made before joining the WTO. The reports said the US had mistakenly supported China’s WTO membership in 2001.
Gao Feng, a spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce, said China strongly opposes the arguments made in the reports, which exhibit tendencies of protectionism and unilateralism.
“Many arguments in the reports not only ignore but also falsify the facts, and are self-contradictory,” he said at a news conference in Beijing.
A genuine and reasonable market economy, Gao said, should be an economic system where the “market plays a decisive role in the allocation of resources, and is suitable for that country’s national conditions, rather than those based on the standards in other countries.”
Gao cited several references to enumerate China’s historic achievements in building a market economy.
“Since China’s accession to the World Trade Organization, tariffs have declined from 15.3 percent to 9.8 percent. More than 50 access restrictions in the manufacturing industry have been removed. In addition, the country has also opened, to varying degrees, about 120 subsectors out of the 160 in the services industry,” he said.
Taking strong exception to the US stance, leading experts have suggested that China should take necessary measures to thwart the US, while continuing to seek redress for its grievances under the WTO dispute mechanism.
“China should continue to obey and safeguard the WTO rules,” said Yu Yongding, an economist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
“When problems arise in the US, they often use domestic laws to override the WTO rules. China should not rule out the use of reciprocal retaliatory measures, but use them prudently. It is in accordance with international law,” Yu said at the China Finance Annual Forum.
Wei Jianguo, former vice-minister of commerce, said the US itself does not adhere to the WTO rules. He was referring to the US opposition for market economy status to China and its use of Section 301 of the US Trade Act to override global trade rules.
“We clearly do not want a trade war ... but if the US sticks to protectionism, we can cope with it,” he said. “Do not bully China to test the country’s endurance.”
Wei’s comments come at a time when available data indicated that China was the largest victim of global trade remedy investigations in 2017, despite the number and value of cases falling by 37 percent and 23 percent year-on-year, respectively.
Last year, 21 countries and regions launched 75 trade remedy investigations against exports of Chinese enterprises, the data showed.