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2015 Business Review XXVI: Stick to Multilateral Trading system and Fulfill the Obligation of a Big Trader of Goods

In 2015, the Ministry of Commerce firmly implemented, arranged properly, and handled comprehensively China鈥檚 strategies and policies about multilateral trading system, and trying to achieve the results that will benefit China most in the multilateral and bilateral negotiations.

1. Actively play the role and drive the success of the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference.

The 10th WTO Ministerial Conference was held in Nairobi, Kenya on December 15-19. Chinese Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng led the delegation and attended the conference. The conference approved the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration and 9 decisions, and affirmed the achievements of the WTO in the 20 years since its establishment. The conference also reached consensus on the Doha issues like agriculture export competition and the least developed countries, and promised to comprehensively cancel the agricultural export subsidies. The conference also reached new multilateral disciplines on issues like export financing support, cotton and international food aid, which will contribute to the building of a fairer international trade environment. At the same time, the conference agreed to give the least developed countries preferential treatments in terms of preferential rules of origin, Service immunity mechanism and cotton, in order to practically solve the difficulties of the least developed countries and benefit them through the multilateral trading system. The conference also reached the first tariff concession agreement of WTO during the recent 18 years, namely the Expansion of Information Technology Agreement. Besides, the conference officially approved Afghanistan and Liberia to enter WTO, further expanding the representativeness of the multilateral trading system.

Gao Hucheng led a delegation and attended the conference. The delegation was composed of the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the State Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Agriculture, the General Administration of Customs, the Export-Import Bank of China and the Permanent Delegation to WTO. China has made active contributions to the conference through boosting peace, negotiation and success. China supported the multilateral trading system, stuck to the development goals, spoke out China鈥檚 opinions and put forward China鈥檚 plan, communicated closely with other members to seek consensus. Particularly, the breakthrough of the Information Technology Agreement benefited from the consensus between China and the U.S., and China played an important role in the negotiation. Before the conference, China funded the government of Kenya and the WTO Secretariat to hold the round table meeting about the entry of the least developed countries to WTO. The President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta attended the high-level forum of the round table, and highly evaluated China-Africa cooperation, China-Kenya friendship and China鈥檚 contributions to promoting trade and assistance, which laid a favorable foundation for the achievements of the conference.

In terms of the future differences of Doha Round, China held that Doha Round is an important opportunity to solve the unbalanced development of the world. The WTO members should develop authorization according to Doha, and steadily promote Doha to gain active achievements. China is willing to strengthen communication and cooperation with the other members, seek common points while reserving differences, and reach consensus in order to implement the fruits of the conference and maintain the multilateral trading system jointly.

2. Play the role of a large goods trader, and drive the conclusion of the Expansion of Information Technology Agreement.

On December 16, 2015, Gao Hucheng and US Trade Representative Michael Froman discussed and reached consensus on the negotiations on the expansion of the WTO Information Technology Agreement, and issued a joint statement. Afterwards, the expansion negotiation was announced to be concluded in Nairobi, Kenya, with a comprehensive agreement being reached. The expansion was launched in May, 2012 and used three and a half years with almost 20 rounds of negotiations. There were 24 participants and 53 WTO members attending the negotiation. The global trade volume of the expansion products of the participants reached US$ 1.3 trillion, accounting for 90% of the global trade volume of the related products.

China entered the Information Technology Agreement officially in 2003, and has become the largest production and export country and the second largest import country of the world information technology products. China is an important participant of the global value chain of information technology products. China takes up about one quarter of the global trade volume of the expansion products, ranking the first in the world. The agreement of the expansion will not only benefit China to expand the export of the related products, contribute to the reduction of the import cost of the related components and equipments, but also bring benefits to the enterprises and consumers. At the same time, the agreement will enhance the consolidation of China鈥檚 status in the global value chain, promote the Chinese information technology products to expand to the high end of global value chain, drive industrialization through informatization, so as to promote 鈥淐hina Manufacturing 2025鈥 Besides, China鈥檚 active participation in the expansion is a specific reflection of its further reform and opening up, which will help to further strengthen the confidence of foreign investment, and enhance the level of opening up.

3. FTA gained breakthroughs鈥擟hina-Australia entered into effect officially, and China-Georgia FTA was officially launched.

On November 17, 2014, during his state visit in Australia, President Xi Jinping and Australian Premier Tony Abott, confirmed and announced that China-Australia FTA negotiations were substantially concluded. Since then, China and Australia conducted the verifying and confirming work of all the negotiation achievements, and completed the initial signing on February 5, 2015. The legal review of the Chinese and English texts was completed in the end of May. On June 17, Gao Hucheng and Australian Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb signed the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement on behalf of their own government in Canberra, Australia. On December 20, China-Australia FTA entered into effect officially and carried out the first tariff reduction, and the second was carried out on January 1, 2016. The China-Australia FTA is the first free trade agreement China signed with a major developed economy of considerable size. It is also one of the free trade agreements with the highest degree of trade and investment liberalization that China has signed so far with other economies. It is of great significance to China鈥檚 construction of a high-level FTA network facing the world. At the same time, the agreement is also a milestone in the development of China-Australia economic and trade relation. After entering into force, it will inject strong power to deepen the China-Australia bilateral economic and trade cooperation and bolster the economic growth of the two countries, as well as provide important contents to enrich the China-Australia comprehensive strategic partnership.

In March, China and Georgia announced to launch the joint feasibility study of FTA, and completed it in half a year with a positive conclusion. On December 10, the two parties signed the Memorandum of Understanding on Starting Negotiations, which means that the China-Georgia FTA negotiations were launched officially. Georgia is an important economic and trade partner of China in Transcaucasia, and China is the third largest trade partner and important investment source of Georgia. The two countries have broad space in economic and trade cooperation.

4. We positively handle the concerns of WTO members over China鈥檚 policies.

From 2015, China submitted to WTO the Quantitative Restriction Bulletin (2010-2014), State-Owned Trade Bulletin (2003-2014) and Subsidy Bulletin (2009-2014, Central policies). China reported to WTO 464 trade policies yearly. Especially, we completed and submitted several delayed reports, and became one of the members who update important reports most timely for the first time, widely welcomed by the WTO members. Besides, The Ministry of Commerce, together with the Office of Legislative Affairs, asked the State Council to issue the Notice of the General Office of the State Council on Making Good Translation Work of Regulations Related to Trade, in order to create the system conditions to better fulfill the WTO obligations.

At the same time, the compliance work of the trade policies of MOFCOM speeded up smoothly. This boosts the compliance level with the WTO rules and will benefit the cultivation of a legalized business environment. MOFCOM drove 17 provinces to issue the implementation methods of the compliance work of trade policies, conducted two rounds of national trainings, and compiled the Work Book of Trade Policies Compliance (Draft), and increased the capability to evaluate the compliance at each department. UP to 2015, we have completed the compliance assessment work of 670 policies, and properly handled several compliance concerns put forward by the other WTO members.

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