China's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) and its development over the last 10 years have contributed to global prosperity, according to a former WTO director.
China has been able to sustain the world economy in the context of the economic crisis of 2008. The sustained momentum of Chinese exports helped to contain inflation in the export market, said David Hartridge, a senior WTO counselor at White & Case's Geneva office. Hartridge served 18 years as a director of the WTO, eight of which were as director of the WTO's Trade in Services Division.
In an exclusive interview to IBTimes, he said: (The) general view is that China has been a good citizen of the WTO. It has not tried to position itself as a leader of developing countries against developed countries. It has been a cautious watch-and-learn approach. It has been a deliberate attempt.
Responding in hindsight to fears raised in the last decade about China's influence, he said: China has taken third party status in 78 different disputes in WTO. The country's profile, over 10 years, has risen markedly.
There are concerns that the reform process is stalling. The momentum is not being maintained. So it is too much to say that they have satisfied all partners in implementing all commitments made. In general, however, the experience has not been a disruptive one, Hartridge said when asked about the Asian giant's commitment to meeting WTO obligations.
Their economy has been more centrally controlled. They had more to do and they have done a great (job). Their partners do accept that. However, there remains a great deal to do. Particular concerns have been expressed over the degree to which state officials intervene. Given the size and strength of the state sector in the Chinese economy, that is a big issue, he said, talking about the country's transition from a state to a market economy.
That is what the WTO system is for. Disputes can only be resolved in legal basis. Political or non-legal basis for settlement can be dangerous for everyone, he said. It is a great benefit that the enormous trade flows which are taking place are happening within the context of a legal system. Trade happening on this scale gives rise to tensions. Tensions between governments on trade are potentially disruptive and dangerous.
Obviously they will continue the process of implementation of the commitments they already made. I believe they will continue the process of opening the economy, which means less state intervention, he explained, sounding positive about future actions from China.
On a concluding note, Hartridge dismissed the notion of a WTO without China, terming their presence essential and their inclusion irreversible.
He spoke about the enormous investment the country had made as part of its inclusion and questioned any notion of the country being less than firmly established in WTO circles. He stated that he expected momentum gained from liberalization policies to be maintained, in the interests of both the Chinese people and economy and of those of their trading partners.