A country needs to keep up with the new developments, and so are the international organizations. WTO is no exception. The Doha Round has been dragging on for years. Over the past decade, the hundreds of millions of dollars in agricultural subsidies in the developed members have remained largely unchanged. But at the same time, new forms of business, such as e-commerce, have flourished across the world. WTO is not providing international norms to address any of these issues. What is even more alarming is that the organization seems to be losing effectiveness to rein in the rampage of unilateralism and protectionism.
For all these reasons, WTO needs a reform. But the reform should be in the right direction and taking the right approach.
First, the reform needs to be firmly set in the course of fighting against unilateralism and protectionism. It has to push for worldwide trade liberalization and investment facilitation. It has to stick to the principle of non-discrimination and adopt a democratic approach. Reform is not to reinvent the wheel. The existing rules must be fully respected and faithfully implemented. Reform is not an excuse for not implementing the rules, and any such attempt should be met with resistance from the members.
With respect to making new rules for new forms of business activities, we should allow members, maybe starting with groups of like-minded ones, to explore these issues, but we also need to duly consider the views and needs of the developing members and fully consult with them. Only through an inclusive process, can we maybe eventually reach multilateral outcomes.
Second, we need to prioritize and take a step-by-step approach, and stay away from moonshot targets. If, through consultations and negotiations among the members, we could expeditiously restore the proper functioning of the dispute settlement mechanism, achieve an agreement on fishery subsidies in 2019 as we planned, make progress on the new topics such as e-commerce, investment facilitation and MSMEs, make improvements in terms of transparency. If we can achieve these targets at the MC12 in 2020, I think we can already call it a success. China is willing to play a proactive and constructive role, and to make contributions within its capacities.
People sometimes say that the WTO is a patient in a critical state with multiple failing organs. If that is the case, urgently resorting the functioning of the organs and making the right diagnostics of the illness is more important that rushing to give prescriptions. Today’s discussion might be a group consultation of doctors to identify what is the cause of the illness and work on a plan for proper treatment. We might have many such group consultations in different formats so that we can have the right understanding of the issues and provide the right solutions.
We all know where the crisis of WTO comes from, but whatever a particular country or a particular individual thinks about the WTO, it can only serve as the context rather than the reason for the reform of the WTO. Of course, we have to prepare for the worst, but I don’t want to spend too much time on hypothetical scenarios. I just want to say that we will, within our capacities and responsibilities, work hard to push for the right reform of the WTO.