Last reviewed 29 October 2021

It is 20 years since China joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) and it has recently been subject to one of that body’s regular reviews of how member countries are meeting their commitments to the global trading community.

The UK's Ambassador to the WTO and UN in Geneva, Simon Manley, delivered the UK’s contribution to this Trade Policy Review on behalf of International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan.

He noted that China’s share of global trade jumped from approximately 8.5% to almost 11% in the decade to 2019 and is expected to increase yet further, to 12%, by 2030.

“All of this is possible because we have an open, rules-based, transparent, and non-discriminatory global trading system”, Mr Manley pointed out. “We look - like others - to China to play a full and responsible role upholding this arrangement, including by agreeing to take up commitments which are commensurate with its level of development and economic capability.”

He highlighted the recent progress China has made to open its markets to international trade and investment but emphasised that China has reached a point where the pace, scale and implementation of its market opening needs to accelerate.

Mr Manley went on to highlight several areas which the UK believes require China’s attention and action. These include:

  • the fact that Chinese firms continue to enjoy much higher levels of access in overseas markets than their foreign counterparts enjoy within China

  • the centrality of state-owned enterprises to China’s industrial strategies, and the lack of transparency in their operations

  • China’s continued lack of compliance with transparency obligations under the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures

  • the pressing need for China to ratify and effectively implement the ILO Forced Labour Convention including the 2014 Protocol and the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention.

“China’s transformation in the last 20 years has been remarkable, and China should take great credit for that”, Mr Manley concluded. “But as a trading superpower, China now has a special responsibility to ensure it practices free and fair trade.”