Author: Huo Jianguo, Vice President of China World Trade Organization Research Association

  This year marks the 20th anniversary of China's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out in his keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the 4th China International Import Expo, “Since joining the World Trade Organization, China has continued to expand and open up, which has activated the surging spring tide of China’s development and also activated the spring water of the world economy. ".

Openness is a distinctive mark of contemporary China.

Over the past 20 years, China has fully fulfilled its WTO commitments, has continuously expanded its opening up, and has become a "power source" and "stabilizer" for world economic growth with its own steady development.

The tremendous achievements made in the 20 years of joining the World Trade Organization are the results of our initiative to seize the development opportunities of economic globalization, fully open up to the outside world, and deeply integrate into the world economy. It is the firm maintenance of an open, inclusive, rule-based multilateral trading system. An important gain is a sign of the success of building a socialist market economy by overcoming multiple difficulties under the leadership of the party.

  1 Independent reforms achieved positive results while negotiating

  In 1986, China formally submitted an application for customs reinstatement to the predecessor of the WTO, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). This was a major decision made by the Party Central Committee in accordance with the development and changes of my country's reform and opening up situation.

The resumption and WTO accession negotiations have gone through 15 years and can be roughly divided into two stages, namely, the stage before 1995 which mainly focused on the review of the economic system and the stage after 1995 with the market access negotiation as the main feature.

In March 1987, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade established the China Working Group and held its first meeting in October of the same year. The members entered the consultation and deliberation stage on China's economic system, legal system, trade policies and management methods.

Since then, my country has continuously increased its domestic market-oriented reforms, negotiating and reforming, and has achieved positive results.

Major reform measures mainly involve the following aspects:

  Autonomous tax cuts.

On the basis of in-depth investigation and calculation and full negotiation, from December 1992 to the end of 1999, my country has successively carried out four independent tax reduction processes.

The first time the overall tariff level was reduced from 43.2% to 39.9%, involving 3371 tariff items, a decrease of 7.3%; the second time was reduced from 39.9% to 36.4%, involving 2898 tariff items, a decrease of 8.8%; the third time The drop from 36.4% to 23% involved 4964 commodity tax items, a drop of 35.9%; the fourth drop from 23% to 17%, involving 4890 tax items, a 26% drop.

When China joined the WTO in 2001, my country's average tariff dropped to 15.3%, and after an eight-year transition period, it dropped to 9.8%.

  Reform the foreign trade management system.

At the beginning of reform and opening up, my country implemented a planned economy-based and highly monopolistic foreign trade management system. The country’s import and export trade was mainly operated by the top ten import and export companies including COFCO, Minmetals, Light Industry, and Textile. The company operates strictly in accordance with the instructions of the head office. All foreign exchange earned from exports is turned over to the state, profits are turned over to the central government, and losses are fully subsidized by the state.

The reform of this foreign trade management system mainly involves the following aspects: First, the implementation of self-financing trials.

After 1998, pilot projects for self-financing were first implemented in the light industry, crafts and textile industries. At the same time, the distribution method of foreign exchange retention was reformed, allowing different commodities to set different retention ratios, creating favorable conditions for enterprises to develop themselves and be responsible for their own profits and losses.

The second is to break the monopoly of foreign trade management rights.

The above-mentioned head offices gradually delegated their operating rights to provincial and municipal branches until the head office was decoupled from the branches, and at the same time granted qualified production enterprises with import and export rights. When China joined the WTO, all foreign trade rights have been changed to a registration system.

The third is to drastically reduce the planned management of commodities, from the initial more than 3000 kinds of planned management commodities to 112 in stages, completely changing the history of enterprises that must apply for quotas for export.

Fourth, the implementation of exchange rate unification in 1994 ended the dual-track exchange rate system, ensuring a stable export accounting basis for enterprises.

These reform measures have greatly activated the business vitality of foreign trade enterprises. They not only met the basic requirements of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, but also played a positive role in promoting the resumption of customs negotiations. They also further released my country's foreign trade development potential and promoted my country's import and export trade to enter a high-growth stage. .

  Promote the construction of a socialist market economic system.

In 1992, the 14th National Congress of the Communist Party of China put forward the goal of building a socialist market economic system. my country’s market reform has entered a stage of comprehensive acceleration. In 1993, the State Council promoted the reform of the financial system, the fiscal and taxation system, and the reform of the foreign exchange system and achieved positive results. Reforms to implement enterprise autonomy and separation of government and enterprises were carried out, the Ministry of Textile Industry and the Ministry of Light Industry were abolished, and the Ministry of Materials and the Ministry of Commerce were merged.

These reform measures have aroused great international response. Our country's economic management system basically meets the principle requirements of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and has won the initiative to further promote negotiations.

It was possible that China would restore its status as a signatory to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade before 1995 and become the original signatory of the WTO. However, it was unable to do so due to the large gap in its negotiating positions.

In 1995, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade was expanded and upgraded to the World Trade Organization. my country immediately entered into the WTO negotiations. Finally, on November 10, 2001, the Fourth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization held in Doha, the capital of Qatar, approved China’s accession. According to the decision of the World Trade Organization, China officially became the 143rd member of the WTO on December 11.

  2 Gain valuable experience in the process of WTO accession negotiations

  After 15 years of WTO accession negotiations, we have exercised and improved our ability to master and control international economic and trade rules, strengthened our ability to deal with complex negotiation scenarios, and learned the ability to use rules to effectively safeguard national interests.

  The strong leadership of the Party Central Committee is a powerful guarantee for us to overcome difficulties.

Joining the WTO is a major decision of the Party Central Committee. When the negotiations were the most difficult and confusing, the Party Central Committee and the State Council were determined to advance domestic market-oriented reforms, gaining the initiative for negotiations ahead. In the process of reviewing institutional mechanisms, it was precisely the major domestic issue. The reform measures have effectively coordinated with the negotiation process. When market access encounters resistance, the Party Central Committee and the State Council coordinated the relevant ministries and commissions to take a flexible approach to avoid the deadlock in the negotiation based on the full consideration of the overall situation and effective risk control. , And finally broke through the obstacles of negotiation and achieved a satisfactory result.

After China’s accession to the WTO, the Party Central Committee made unified arrangements to carry out training work to popularize WTO rules throughout the country. At the same time, to effectively implement WTO commitments, it carried out nationwide laws and regulations revision work. All these have provided China to fulfill its WTO commitments. Strong guarantee.

  Adhering to joining the WTO as a developing country is the right choice.

In WTO rules, developing countries can enjoy differential preferential treatment, which is mainly reflected in tariff arrangements and the opening up of service industries.

Although Europe and the United States strongly oppose China’s accession as a developing country, the market access commitments made by China’s WTO accession protocol basically reflect that my country enjoys a market opening commitment at the level of developing countries, especially in tariff arrangements and service sector opening. In terms of the arrangements for the transitional period, the commitments were made entirely at the level of developing countries, which reserved effective time and space for China’s response after my country’s accession to the WTO.

  Reform and opening up have won the initiative to join the WTO.

In the process of joining WTO negotiations, China has won the initiative for development by adopting the strategy of negotiating and reforming.

During the 15 years of negotiations, China has continuously promoted the construction of a market economy system, continuously injected new vitality into economic development, promoted economic prosperity and development, enhanced economic strength and development potential, and made China’s market more attractive. Provides new development space and wins the support of multinational companies.

After joining the WTO, my country has promoted the vigorous development of state-owned, private and foreign-funded enterprises through reforms, forming a powerful driving force for the development of an export-oriented economy.

  The rules of marketization, rule of law and internationalization are conducive to promoting economic prosperity and development.

The basic principles of the WTO are an open, transparent and non-discriminatory policy environment, as well as the principles of most-favored-nation treatment and national treatment. These principles are also the basic requirements of marketization.

In the process of WTO accession negotiations, China has continuously deepened its understanding of these principles and listed them as the main goals of reform and opening up. Up to now, the high-level opening up that has been promoted still lists these contents as the main goals.

The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China put forward the goal of high-level opening up, which is to build a market-oriented, legalized, and internationalized business environment. This is a concrete manifestation of our reforms in accordance with international rules.

  Accelerating the promotion of institutional opening up against international economic and trade rules is an effective experience.

The WTO accession negotiation process is also a concrete practice process for my country to constantly benchmark international economic and trade rules and accelerate the advancement of institutional openness.

Faced with the new development trend of today's international trade, we are still striving to take greater steps in the docking of rules and institutional opening up, which is conducive to us taking the initiative in international competition.

  3 Actively participate in international competition with a high level of openness

  Adhering to a high-level opening up is an important development requirement during the "14th Five-Year Plan" period.

At present, the world is facing major changes unseen in a century, and the destructive effects of unilateralism and trade protectionism are constantly fermenting, bringing new challenges and pressures to the development of our foreign-oriented economy.

Since the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, the Party Central Committee has scientifically grasped the new characteristics and new trends of changes in the international situation, promptly put forward new requirements for high-level opening up, and adopted a series of new opening-up measures, such as expanding market access and implementing foreign businesses throughout the country as soon as possible. Investment in the negative list management model, actively reducing import tariffs, actively expanding imports, accelerating the opening up of the service industry, expanding the use of foreign capital, accelerating the process of exploring the reform of the pilot free trade zone, and promptly approving Hainan’s exploration of the construction of a free trade port, etc., which have improved my country’s openness. Produced a positive response internationally.

On November 15, 2020, my country formally signed the "Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement" (RCEP), and this year it formally applied to join the "Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement" (CPTPP), reflecting my country's determination to promote high-level openness And confidence.

At present, we must grasp the internal connection between high-level openness and the construction of a new development pattern, adapt to the new situation of international competition, promote high-level openness, promote high-quality economic development, and comprehensively enhance the international competitiveness of China's economy.

  A high level of openness is conducive to the continuous creation of a market-oriented, legalized, and internationalized business environment.

The passage of my country’s Foreign Investment Law in 2019 indicates that my country has made new progress in building a market-oriented, legalized, and internationalized business environment. It shows that in the face of complex changes in the international market, we are confident and capable of maintaining economic stability. There is progress.

Doing a good job in stabilizing employment, stabilizing finance, stabilizing foreign trade, stabilizing foreign investment, stabilizing investment, and stabilizing expectations is the basic work to ensure that the economy is stable and improving, and insisting on expanding opening up and creating a good business environment is to ensure the vitality of economic development The key content.

The promulgation of the Foreign Investment Law has played an institutional role in easing investment access, protecting the legitimate rights and interests of foreign investment, regulating competition policies, and creating a competitive environment where state-owned and privately-owned enterprises and foreign-funded enterprises are treated equally. It is conducive to the expansion of investment by foreign-funded enterprises in China.

To actively and effectively expand the use of foreign capital and promote the healthy development of an export-oriented economy, it is necessary to further relax foreign capital market access and implement a negative list management model.

  A high level of openness is conducive to stabilizing my country's industrial chain and supply chain.

In the face of complex changes in the international environment, the battle for the industrial chain and supply chain has become increasingly prominent.

After joining the WTO, my country has made great progress in the development of a foreign-oriented economy. General trade and independent manufacturing capabilities have been continuously improved and a competitive advantage of scale has been formed. This has greatly promoted my country's industrialization process and established its status as a global manufacturing center.

The policies currently advocated by Europe and the United States such as the return of manufacturing and the restructuring of the industrial chain are difficult to achieve from the law of historical development, because they violate the basic law of social productivity development and progress.

my country actively responds to the challenges in the industrial chain and supply chain, and needs to be more proactive in advancing a new higher-level open economic system, building a fairer market competition environment, relaxing market access, expanding market opening, and further stabilizing and expanding the use of foreign capital.

  A high level of openness is conducive to further expansion of domestic consumption.

The "14th Five-Year Plan" attaches great importance to the expansion of consumption.

Maintaining the vigorous development of my country's consumer market and taking advantage of my country's super-large market scale are not only the foundation for supporting the long-term stable economic development, but also the key to continuing to attract multinational capital investment.

Expansion of consumption is inseparable from the growth of employment and the continuous improvement of people's income level, and foreign capital plays an important role in it.

Since the reform and opening up, both the stock and increase of foreign investment have played an important role in the development of my country's national economy for a long time. Maintaining the steady growth of foreign investment is an important part of ensuring stable economic growth.

In recent years, the focus of foreign investment has mainly focused on the service industry and high-tech manufacturing. The new negative list announced by my country reflects this new change in the foreign investment landscape, liberalizing many areas in the service industry and some high-end industries. In the manufacturing sector, investment equity restrictions in most areas have also been liberalized, including equity restrictions on investment in some industries.

These new opening-up policies are bound to have a positive attraction to foreign investment. The entry of foreign investment will surely promote the rapid development of some service industries and high-end manufacturing industries and form new economic growth points. This will help increase domestic high-income jobs and cultivate high-income groups. Promoting consumption upgrades will have positive effects and will help promote the high-quality development of the consumer market.

  A high level of openness is conducive to my country's more active participation in international competition.

At present, the prospects for economic recovery of various countries have been markedly different. China has not only achieved initial results in epidemic prevention and control, but also led the world in resuming work and production, and has made outstanding contributions to the recovery of global economic and trade.

However, although the global economy has entered a stage of recovery, the stability of economic recovery is still relatively fragile due to the deep-seated contradictions of economic growth, international competition is becoming increasingly fierce, and trade protectionism is on the rise.

In response to this, China has emphasized its firm support for true multilateralism and opposition to trade protectionism on many international occasions, and has won universal response and support from the international community.

In this environment, it is necessary for China to take the initiative, firmly follow the path of open economic development, and make every effort to create a more market-oriented, rule-of-law and international business environment, so that my country's economic growth vitality and healthy and stable development can gain in international competition. Taking the initiative to play a greater role in international affairs will also help Chinese enterprises to participate in international competition fairly and continuously improve their new advantages in international competition.

  "Guangming Daily" (December 08, 2021, version 13)

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