The day after the US threatened tariffs on another $200 billion in Chinese goods, Dennis Shea, US ambassador to the WTO, on Wednesday questioned China’s WTO membership. He demanded a “reckoning” over the membership and some changes to the organization.
Washington has just launched the largest ever trade war in history by trampling on WTO rules and is even suspected of intending to withdraw from the WTO. How ridiculous that it question China’s qualification.
Whether China is a qualified WTO member lies first in whether it has honored the commitment set forth when entering the WTO, in particular, whether it has reduced the average rate of tariffs as promised. The truth is, China had fulfilled all its tariff-reduction promises by 2010, with an overall tariff rate of 9.8 percent, over-fulfilling the WTO requirement for developing countries. It reduced the trade-weighted average tariff rate to 4.4 percent in 2015.
Besides, the qualification depends on whether China respects the authority of WTO rulings. Since its accession to the organization in 2001, China has faced 41 suits to the US’ 80. China resolutely implements all WTO rulings, such as the one requiring China to remove export restrictions on rare earth resources. In contrast, the US often turns a deaf ear to WTO rulings.
China declared in April to further open up. It plans to open up as much as possible while still fulfilling its WTO commitment, catch up with what is needed in China’s economic and trade cooperation with the outside world, and promote free and fair international trade. It doesn’t want to maximize its interests by taking advantage of the WTO.
What the US cares about is not what China has done to fulfill its commitment, but what China should do in accordance with US interests. Hence Washington launched the trade war against China by the excuse of a Section 301 investigation, rather than WTO rules.
The US now turns out to be a hefty villain. While withdrawing from multiple international supervisory mechanisms and relinquishing promises, it purports to care for the WTO. It’s harder now for the rest of the world to understand Washington.
The US’ unilateralism and relentless infringement of international rules constitute the biggest challenge to current global order. The world has reached a consensus that Washington is shaking the multilateral trade system with a global trade war. There may be some developed economies that followed US suit in expectation of benefiting from pressuring China, but they won’t prevail since the WTO values rules.
The US should be aware that history is filled with tragedies where the arrogant and greedy fail. The China-US trade war seems to be a protracted one that hinges on cultural resilience. Chinese have no fear of it. While Washington tries every means to impede the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, it should be humble given its history of less than 300 years.