'China needs to play bigger WTO role'

By Zhu Zhe and Zhang Xiaogang (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-10-30 06:25

Charlene Barshefsky
Charlene Barshefsky [China Daily]

One of the architects of China's World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement in 2001 said she believes the country must play a bigger role in international trade body.

"I'm very happy and impressed with the progress China has made in the past five years. I think China has pursued implementation (of its WTO commitment) reasonably well," former US Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky told China Daily.

"Now, China should be a manager of the WTO instead of merely a part of it," she said.

In 1999, when the US-China WTO agreements were concluded, China's foreign trade volume stood at US$360 billion, a figure that will approach US$1.7 trillion this year. In 1999 China accounted for about 4 per cent of world trade, but today that share is about 10 per cent.

In terms of implementation, Barshefsky said China had made its biggest strides in tariff reduction, quota reduction and elimination, and in the drafting of related legislation and its transparency.

But questions concerning the protection of intellectual property rights, services trade, banking regulations and new regulations on investment should be further addressed, she said.

Barshefsky also called for a stronger role for China to help bring an end to the Doha round of talks, which have stalled for five years.

"As a member and manager of the WTO, China has responsibility in ensuring the WTO's success. And as the single biggest country reliant on exports to grow, China does have a very big stake in ensuring that it assists managing the negotiating process," she said.

China could also consider either accelerating opening in certain areas, or it could indicate that it will move fully forward on services liberalization to help promote the Doha round, she said.

Barshefsky also suggested that China should play a role in attempts to take some Arab countries into the WTO to ease the tensions in the Middle East.

"A very good start might be an agreement among the US, Europe, China, Japan and perhaps Brazil and India to provide a special trade treatment for Middle East economies that are willing to reform, and allowing goods from these countries to enter the countries above-mentioned duty free," she said.

As many Chinese companies are seeking to invest in the Untied States, Barshefsky reminded that these enterprises must look at the entire range of US laws and make sure that they have touched all of the appropriate basses in Washington and elsewhere to avoid problems.