ANNIVERSARIES should be happier than that on December 11th, marking China’s 15 years as a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). On that day, China expected to be unshackled from its legal label as a “non-market economy” and attain “market-economy status”. In the event, America and the European Union refused to give it the nod. On December 12th the Chinese reacted: see you in court.
The fight will focus on the wording in the original accession agreement. The Americans and the Chinese are both confident of winning. Legal experts are divided. The WTO does not provide a clear definition of a “market economy”. And clumsy legal drafting does not help.
The meat of the row is over the method WTO members use to protect their industries against cheap Chinese imports. Alleging that Chinese companies enjoy subsidised credit, energy and raw materials, America and the EU slap anti-dumping duties on 7% (see chart) and 5% respectively of their Chinese imports. The agreement welcoming China into the WTO explicitly gave other members licence to treat it as a non-market economy until December 11th 2016….Continue reading