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China Focus: China aims for more constructive WTO role


BEIJING, Dec. 11 (Xinhua) -- In 2001, China became a latecomer to the World Trade Organization (WTO) that heralded vast changes in the global economic landscape. Twelve years on, the country is aiming for a more constructive role in the framework through further opening up and deeper reforms.

Increasing engagement with other countries has seen China gradually evolve into the world's second largest economy, the biggest commodity exporter and second largest importer. It also boasts the largest stockpile of foreign exchange reserves.

Over the past decade, China abolished, revised and adopted more than 3,000 laws, regulations and department rules to fulfill its commitment to the WTO, and further opened its economy to the outside world.

From a new member trying to adapt to trade rules and become an active player, the country has spared no effort to make the mechanism work.

Just days ago, the WTO reached a breakthrough in its multilateral trade negotiation by sealing its first-ever trade package at its ninth ministerial meeting after more than a decade of negotiations and missed deadlines.

That progress came in the background of burgeoning regional or bilateral free trade agreements outside the WTO framework, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. These are trying to set new trade rules and their exclusive standards are putting renewed pressure on developing countries such as China.

"Economic globalization is at a crossroads. In the context of exclusive regional pacts worldwide that put poorer countries at a disadvantage, the role of the WTO is likely to be drastically weakened if no action is taken," said Zhang Yansheng, secretary-general of the Academic Committee of the National Development and Reform Commission, China's top economic planner.

At the meeting, Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng reiterated China's stance as a firm supporter and important contributor to the multilateral trade system, and would play a more active role in the WTO system by further opening up its market.

Zhang pointed out as a responsible global economic giant, China should maintain an open mind, avoid confrontations to push forward global trade in a more inclusive and diverse manner, and comprehensively deepen reforms to promote a new round of opening up.

In September, the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone (FTZ) was established as a national strategic trial to further tap market forces and push market-oriented trade and investment reforms, now with more than 1,400 firms established and about 6,000 waiting to start business.

In the country's latest reform roadmap released last month, China pledged to further widen market access for foreign investors, keep investment policy stable, transparent and predictable, and further open up service sectors including finance, education, culture and health.

"While opening up its economy, China should be more engaged in the rule-setting of global trade for a more open market and avoid certain countries being marginalized," Zhang said.