Thursday, November 19, 2009

中華人民共和國加入世界貿易組織八週年 / The 8th Anniversary of China's Accession to WTO

(This blog article is posted on 2009-11-19, immediately after the official visit of US Prez Obama to the PRC. It will be updated as required btwn now and the 2009-12-11 anniversary date)

China was granted "official observer" status by GATT on November 6, 1984. It took a record-breaking 15 yrs of negotiations for China to become a member of WTO, on December 11, 2001. Despite skepticism from both within and without China at the beginning, successive Chinese leaders have been able to implement key economic reforms in compliance with WTO requirements and launch China toward a more market-based economy. For the last two decades or so, the growth of the Chinese economy is breath-taking and has surprised many nay-sayers.

However, the transformation has its ups and downs as well as gains and losses. For example: It was not easy for the older hardliners who had been fighting "capitalists" most of their adult lives, only to see their own country going the free-market way albeit socialist style. It was not easy for officials of State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) to lean the meaning of competitiveness, although the word "profit" was being picked up fairly quickly (which then begged the question: for whom?) The provincial, regional and municipal governments also had to work with Beijing on a renewed governance model with the decentralization of economic planning and control.

As well, there are many challenges ahead and here are just some examples (not in any order of priority):

* the balance act btwn political and economic reforms, both in terms of pace and degree
* further reform of the financial sector, banking system, judicial system, etc., as well as the undertaking of other commitments to comply with WTO protocols and regulations
* pressure from the Obama Administration in areas of trade deficit, devaluation of the Renminbi, removal of trade barriers/irritants (e.g. IP rights), more import into China, protection of American jobs back home, etc.
* pressure from EU in areas of human rights, Tibet, the environment and other social, economic, environmental, and geo-political issues
* the intricate and delicate links btwn investment-trade and China's foreign policies with respect to Iran, North Korea, Russia, Africa allies, global terrorism, etc.
* strategies concerning Sustainable Consumption and Production - from greenhouse gases emissions to the availability of renewable and non-renewable resources (energy, rare-earth elements, ...) to the protection of the environment and health and wellness of people - while maintaining high enough employment to prevent social discontent and unrest.
* economic competitions and threats from other BRIC countries, in terms of labour cost, quality of goods and services, branding, innovations, science and technology, productivity, exchange rate, and other competitiveness-related issues.

To end on a light note after a somewhat serious discussion, I would like to present the readers with a parody I wrote based on the first line of the classic movie "Casablanca".

"Casabanker" / Act 2009: There is always Doha !! / First line:

Narrator: "... With the coming of the Second Economic Order, many eyes in imprisoned derivatives turned hopefully, or desperately, toward the freedom of the trade. China became the great embarkation point. But, not everybody could get to the market directly, and so a tortuous, roundabout trail sprang up - Singapore to Beijing ... across land and oceans to Doha ... Just like the last days of GATT - then by train, or auto or plane across the rim of Africa, to Marrakesh, Morocco. Today, the fortunate ones through money, or influence, or luck, might obtain building permits and scurry to Beijing; and from Beijing to the new Disney World. But the others wait in Never Ever Land ... and wait ... and wait ... and wait."

Cut and take five !!!


* IMDb Memorable Quotes from Casablanca

* 關稅與貿易總協定(General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, GATT)

* 世界貿易組織 (World Trade Organization, WTO)

* Wikipedia "... 2001年12月11日:中華人民共和國經過15年的談判正式加入,這是關貿總協定/世貿歷史上談判時間最長的一次。香港和澳門則在1995年1月1日世貿正式成立時加入,兩地分別主權移交到中華人民共和國後,其在世貿的名稱也換為中國香港和中國澳門。.."

* China's Observer Status granted by GATT 1984-11-06
GENEVA, NOVEMBER 6 1984 (IFDA) -- The Peoples Republic of China was granted Tuesday observer status in GATT and its bodies. While the GATT Council acted by consensus on this, the actual legal position of China was still a matter of dispute. China was one of the original signatories of GATT in 1947. But in 1950, the "Republic of China" or Taiwan, which then occupied the seat, withdrew from GATT - a withdrawal that the Peoples Republic of China has not accepted as legal. In making its application, the Chinese did not specifically speak about "observer status", but asked for the right to attend GATT meetings, and its intention to consult and coordinate with Contracting Parties, and that this would facilitate a decision by the Peoples Republic of China on the membership in GATT. The Chinese letter had made clear that it was without prejudice to its legal stand. While everyone welcomed the grant of observer status to China, United States would appear to have specifically reserved the U.S. legal position with regard to China. If the Chinese legal position were to be accepted, in order to acquire full GATT rights, it would not have to negotiate with individual countries on exchange of concessions - a necessary pre-requisite for new members before their protocol of accession would be accepted.
But it was clear that none of the present GATT members would accept this - since in effect it would enable China to get all the benefits of over three decades of mutual concessions by others in trade liberalisation, without China itself having to do anything.

Important note:
***** This article was written based on information from public and media reports. Readers are strongly advised to cross reference and verify all information contained herein. Your comments and updated info are most welcome *****

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