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WTO event may see nation championing trading system reform

By LIU ZHIHUA | China Daily | Updated: 2023-11-29 09:58
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Huang Baoyin (left), Party secretary of the University of International Business and Economics, exchanges views with Yi Xiaozhun, former deputy director-general of the WTO, at the 22nd Annual Conference on the WTO and China in Beijing. ZHU XINGXIN/CHINA DAILY

China is expected to play an important role in promoting reforms at the World Trade Organization and ensuring practical outcomes at the multilateral trade body's 13th Ministerial Conference next year, officials and trade experts said on Tuesday.

The MC13 is scheduled to take place from Feb 26 to 29 in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates.

Only when key WTO members discard a zero-sum, Cold War mentality and firmly uphold win-win multilateralism can reforms of the multilateral trading system become successful and benefit world economic growth, they said at the two-day 22nd Annual Conference on the WTO and China, which kicked off both online and offline on Tuesday.

The conference has been organized by the China Institute for WTO Studies of the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.

Han Yong, director-general of the department of WTO affairs at the Ministry of Commerce, said during the conference that China has proposed more than 20 initiatives associated with WTO reforms since the start of the year.

"There's only less than three months before the MC13, and we are at a very critical stage for reaching agreement through negotiations. China always emphasizes that the most imperative issue in front of us is to ensure the baseline results, meaning that we must resume the dispute settlement mechanism of the WTO, and to make new rules and regulate these rules," Han said.

Agreements also need to be reached on the extension of tariff exemptions, new memberships and security issues, Han added.

China has been firmly promoting necessary WTO reforms, Han said, citing examples like the key role the country has played for the organization to successfully conclude negotiations on the text of the world's first multilateral investment agreement, known as the Investment Facilitation for Development.

China will promote the early inclusion of the investment facilitation agreement into the WTO legal framework and support the negotiations on e-commerce, he added.

Yi Xiaozhun, former deputy director-general of the WTO, said economic globalization has faced strong headwinds in recent years as major developed economies are turning away from traditional trade liberalization toward unilateralism and trade protectionism.

"Countries should resist the trend of securitizing economic issues and return to the principles and practices of win-win cooperation," Yi said.

He also stressed that the top priority for WTO reforms and the MC13 is to restore the normal functioning of the WTO's dispute settlement mechanism, to prevent the world economy from reverting to "the law of the jungle".

Yi said Asian economies share a common aspiration to revitalize the multilateral trading system through reforms and guide the global economy back to the right track of economic globalization.

Li Xin, deputy representative of the International Monetary Fund in China, said that new studies by the IMF have shown that de-risking strategies will have a severe impact on global economic growth.

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