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【CGTN】 Reforms could keep WTO relevant amid trade tensions

( Online video)   Faced with escalating trade tensions between China and the US, the World Trade Organization (WTO) needs to reform itself to meet new challenges, experts said on Thursday at a meeting held by think tank the Center for China and Globalization (CCG).

Structural issues caused by rapid global development have presented the multilateral trading mechanism with its most serious crisis since it was established.

At the end of May, The US, EU and Japan proposed a number of WTO reforms covering areas such as state industrial subsidies, technology transfer and intellectual property protection.

CCG holds a meeting discussing WTO modernization on August 23. /CGTN photo

WTO reforms face multiple challenges, such as the root cause of the crisis and the inefficiencies of the existing multilateral trading system, the delays in negotiations that sometimes leads to the failure of updating the WTO trade rules, the proliferation of special and differential treatment in developing countries, and the need of improvement of mechanisms on supervision and disputing settlement.

Plurilateral negotiations

During the meeting, experts discussed and suggested that member states of the WTO can try some approaches – one of them is plurilateral negotiations.

Li Siqi, the Assistant Professor of China Institute for WTO Studies explained that WTO members should adopt a more open attitude towards plurilateral negotiations, and discuss how to bring plurilateral negotiations into the multilateral institutional framework of the WTO.

Assistant Professor of China Institute for WTO Studies Li Siqi deliveres a speech during the meeting/CGTN photo

For example, plurilaterals covering issues of market access should be non-conditional that applies the Most-Favored-Nation (MFN) treatment to all WTO members and provide transitional or special treatment to developing countries during negotiations, while covering issues on rule-making in specific areas that are only available to signatory members but open to potential participants.

Moreover, Li added that the upgrading and improvement of existing multilateral rules is still the goal of WTO reform in the long term, which needs the joint efforts by all member states.

She took technology transfer for example, although the issue of mandatory technology transfer does not fall under the regulation of current WTO rules, it is mentioned in China’s WTO accession protocol and working party report and China should strengthen relevant disciplines.

Ricardo Melendez-Ortiz, CEO of International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development speaks at the meeting. /CGTN photo

In fact, the WTO has been trying to modernize itself for more than 20 years, but the reform process is complicated and requires contributions by all member states. As Ricardo Melendez-Ortiz, the CEO of International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development said, now it’s the time to really get into the modernization process of the WTO, which will respect all economies in different levels of development and have capability to address issues such as the economy investment and competition policy.

Trade is not a zero-sum game. A trade war will hurt not only both economies but likely also the rest of the world, according to experts.

Reform of the WTO might be just what member states need to put the free trade system back on a healthy track.

From CGTN, 2018-8-24

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