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Argentina hopes China will help improve WTO

By Susana Malcorra | China Daily | Updated: 2017-12-02 08:53

Argentina will host the Eleventh World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires from Dec 10 to 13. The WTO's main decisions are made at this meeting, which takes place every two years. As the host, it is both a great honor and challenge for Argentina to preside over a conference whose rule-based systems stem not from confrontation or wielding of power, but are the fruits of careful consensus building.

We frequently hear-in an underlying, critical tone-that ensuring and defending free trade is the duty of the WTO. However, it is clearly written in the Marrakesh Agreement, WTO's founding document, that the organization's purpose is to facilitate the entry "into reciprocal and mutually advantageous arrangements directed to the substantial reduction of tariffs and other barriers to trade, and to the elimination of discriminatory treatment in international trade relations".

This purpose is to be achieved by "raising standards of living, ensuring full employment" and "in accordance with the objective of sustainable development, seeking both to protect and preserve the environment, and to enhance the means for doing so in a manner consistent with their respective needs and concerns at different levels of economic development".

Therefore, it is more appropriate to describe the WTO as a facilitator of the free flow of commerce through agreements that grant mutual and reciprocal commercial advantages. This function must be exercised in the same way the rules were adopted, through cooperation.

These rules, and the related Dispute Settlement System, allow for all WTO member states to work out their differences within an established mechanism, with equal opportunities to resolve them.

Today, when we face questions about the very existence of a rules-based system, we must recognize that, as any collectively created organization, the WTO should evolve in order to meet the changing realities of 21st century economics and trade, without forgetting those issues that are still pending agreement, such as in the agricultural and fisheries sectors.

At this point it is more important to foster dialogue and cooperation to find common ground and build a consensus for the continuous improvement of the WTO as an institution established to serve all countries and the development of all peoples.

This is the commitment of the Argentine government. We hope that, in Buenos Aires, we will achieve its collective reaffirmation. We bring this objective to our role-as the chair of the conference, we will listen to all, be sensitive to and understand the different regional perspectives, and look into the priorities member states have in order to find that common thread which provides us with the opportunity for consolidating and improving the institutions of the global trade system, as an engine of economic growth and development opportunity.

In his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, President Xi Jinping said: "There was a time when China also had doubts about economic globalization, and was not sure whether it should join the WTO. But we came to the conclusion that integration into the global economy is a historical trend. Therefore, China took a brave step to embrace the global market. We have had our fair share of choking in the water and encountered whirlpools and choppy waves, but we have learned how to swim in this process. It has proved to be a right strategic choice."

At the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Xi, also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, went a step forward and affirmed: "It will be an era that sees China moving closer to center stage and making greater contributions to mankind".

Argentina counts on China's commitment to the multilateral system to achieve the objective of reaffirming and improving the WTO.

The author is president of the Eleventh WTO Ministerial Conference and former minister of foreign affairs of Argentina.

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