TRADE POLICY REVIEW:
Concluding remarks by the Chairperson
- Trade Policy Review: China
This seventh Trade Policy Review of China has allowed us to take a closer look at the trade and economic policies of China and to deepen our understanding of developments in those policies since its previous Review in 2016. I would like to thank, once again, Vice Minister Wang Shouwen and his delegation for their constructive engagement throughout this exercise. I would also like to thank the discussant, Ambassador Chambovey, Permanent Representative of Switzerland at the WTO, for his insightful and comprehensive remarks; and the 70 delegations which have taken the floor for their active participation.
In their interventions, Members highlighted the importance of China's contribution to global growth over recent years and noted that the pace of its economic expansion has been moderating recently, prompting the authorities to rebalance growth by focusing on quality and sustainability rather than quantity.
Members generally expressed appreciation for China's active role in the WTO. China being the world's biggest merchandise trader and one of the largest recipients of FDI, its policies have a direct impact on the global economy. Hence, Members called upon China to assume the increased responsibility linked with being a major player in the multilateral trading system. Members also appreciated China's contribution to ongoing discussions on recent initiatives, such as e-commerce, MSME, and investment facilitation for development. Members also noted China's further involvement in regional trade agreements.
Members commended China on its recent reform initiatives aimed at broadening market access and investment opportunities, the greater involvement of the private sector in the economy, and its commitment to fossil fuel subsidy reform. Members appreciated China's ongoing reform of customs procedures, such as further use of single windows, and commitments in the Trade Facilitation Agreement. Regarding the TFA, Members encouraged China to implement all its category B commitments within the specified transition period. Several Members commended China on the Belt and Road Initiative and viewed it as an avenue for mutual cooperation and growth; some invited China to follow international best practices and adhere to a level-playing field for trade and investment opportunities for all. Members also commended China's recent announcements of liberalization in financial services and tariff reductions in the automobile sector. China was congratulated for providing far-ranging preferences to products from LDCs. Many Members expressed appreciation for China's support and assistance to developing countries in areas such as Aid for Trade.
While many Members appreciated China's continued liberalization of its foreign investment regime, they also encouraged China to further enhance access conditions for foreign investors. In this respect, concerns were raised regarding joint venture requirements, and also with regards to what some perceived as being inconsistent and unpredictable regulatory practices and technology transfer requirements.
In their interventions many Members expressed serious concerns about the preponderant role of the State in general, and of state-owned enterprises in particular. Some Members felt that State influence in China's economy has increased in various sectors. Many Members were of the view that China would require a more market-oriented approach to investment and resource allocation.
Members raised questions about China's support and subsidy policies and local content requirements, including those that may be part of the 2025 plan. Some Members noted the importance of enforcing competition policy, particularly in view of the recent amendment to the Anti-Unfair Competition Law. Members looked forward to China's early accession to the Agreement on Government Procurement, while several Members also noted continuous issues in China's IPR regime and encouraged continued IPR protection and enforcement. Some Members called for more predictability regarding market price support and public stockpiling measures used for certain agricultural products. Other areas of concern raised by Members included: administrative licensing and approval process, inconsistency in certain sanitary and phytosanitary measures, restrictions on certain agricultural products, cross-border data restriction and data localization requirements, the scope and impact of China's cybersecurity legislation and restriction of Virtual Private Network services, restrictive measures in certain services sectors such as tourism, and industrial policies in certain manufacturing sectors, including the production of new energy vehicles. Several Members also referred to what they perceived to be market-distorting policies resulting in excess capacity in some sectors, such as steel and semi-conductors. China was called upon to help address global overcapacity in these sectors.
As in the previous Review, China was encouraged to increase transparency of its trade policy regime. Members highlighted the importance of fulfilling all WTO commitments, in particular the notification obligations concerning, for example, subsidies (including those on fisheries), agricultural support, and state-trading enterprises. In this regard, Members welcomed the statement by China's representative regarding the recent submission of China's subsidy notification. Members encouraged China to publish all laws, regulations and other measures related to trade, and to make them available in one of the WTO official languages. In this context, Members hoped that sufficient time would be given for comments before the introduction of new regulations.
China has received more than 1,900 advance written questions, and has already responded to most of them. This TPR will be successfully concluded in a month's time, when China replies to all outstanding questions. I am confident that China has taken good note, not only of the well-deserved praise that it received during this meeting, but also of the critical comments that emerged in the course of this TPR. I hope that China will find Members' comments useful and constructive in its pursuit of economic and trade reforms.