Experts reject US criticism on post-WTO performance

Updated: 2006-12-14 10:50

US accusations that China is failing to live up to its World Trade Organization (WTO) commitments have been rejected by experts in China, which has just received an "A-plus" performance rating from WTO director-general Pascal Lamy.

In response to complaints of rampant piracy, protectionism and export subsidies, Zhao Yumin, an expert of the Commerce Ministry research institute, said the United States had failed to thoroughly examine China's performance, so it could not provide an objective appraisal.

The report, issued by the US Trade Representative's Office on Monday, in the run-up to the top-level China-US strategic economic dialogue in Beijing on Thursday, is widely seen by Chinese experts as an attempt to pressure the Chinese government on certain key issues.

Complaining of a lack of a forceful crackdown on piracy, the report said, "China routinely fines copyright violators rather than prosecuting them."

But Zhao said China had issued regulations in 2004 that stipulated prison terms of up to seven years for those convicted of selling more than 5,000 pirated discs.

Chinese statistics show that from July to October this year, more than 140 violators received jail terms across the country.

"It is true that administrative penalties remain the common practice for dealing with copyright violators, but the government has become tough on the issue," said Zhao.

"These efforts are impressive for a developing country like China, when reducing poverty and addressing unemployment remain priorities," she said.

Regarding the market opening, the US Trade Representative Susan Schwab said certain US industries "face frustrating barriers to doing business in China and there are worrisome signs that China's market liberalization efforts have slowed in the last year".

Lan Yisheng, an economics professor with the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, argued that every nation had the right to control industries of significant importance to national security. "It does not break WTO rules," he was quoted as saying in Wednesday's China Business News.

"China opened all the sectors listed in its WTO commitments five years ago and removed barriers to foreign participation," said Zhao Yumin.

The US report also targeted increasing Chinese exports, saying the Chinese government provided substantial resources to support Chinese industries and increase exports.

"The Chinese government has abolished subsidies on export products as it promised," said Zhao.

"Even in the agricultural sector, highly protected in both developed and developing countries, China has abolished subsidies on exports," she said.

"China has become one of the most open economic entities in the world," said the expert.

Zhao said the Chinese government may provide financial assistance in company research and development and grant preferential taxation and loan policies to companies aiming to expand overseas.

"But all of the policies focus on the production phase, not exports. It doesn't break WTO rules," said Zhao.

China marked five years of WTO membership on December 11. Pascal Lamy, WTO director-general, and Charlene Barshefsky, former US trade representative, both senior negotiators during China's entry into the WTO, have praised China's fulfillment of WTO pledges.

Lamy told Xinhua in Geneva that he gave China's performance an A-plus. Barshefsky said that China had made remarkable progress in opening its economy since it joined the WTO.

A high-profile US delegation led by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson arrived in Beijing Wednesday for the first China-US strategic economic dialogue.

Among Paulson's delegation are the US Cabinet secretaries of commerce, labor, energy and health and human services. Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the US Federal Reserve and the US Trade Representative Susan Schwab will also take part in the meetings.

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