China hits back at Donald Trump’s ‘absurd’ criticism of its WTO developing country status
- US president claims China and other countries are ‘cheating’ the United States by designating themselves with the World Trade Organisation to receive special benefits
- Xinhua New Agency claims the US are attempting to gain leverage over China ahead of the trade talks that are due to be held in Shanghai on Tuesday and Wednesday
China has hit back at US President Donald Trump’s criticism of China’s developing country status at the World Trade Organisation, bringing another dispute between the world’s two countries to the surface as Chinese and American trade negotiators prepare to resume talks on Tuesday in an attempt to end their year-long trade war.
Trump also tweeted that “the WTO is broken when the world’s richest countries claim to be developing countries to avoid WTO rules and get special treatment”.
If the WTO does not make the necessary change, The White House said, the US were ready to take unilateral action to strip the preferential treatment of countries it believes no longer qualify.
Chinese state media argued that Washington’s demand was “absurd” and was an “old trick” that would fail.
“In order to protect its own interests, the US has cast a shadow over the multilateral trading system and open global economy. Such selfishness and self-interest is against the signs of the time, it will certainly be opposed by all parties, and it is impossible that it will succeed,” added the commentary.
On Monday, the Global Times, a nationalistic tabloid owned by the People's Daily, also published a commentary dismissing the US attempt to revise WTO rules as “absurd”, saying that “the threat of the United States will only expose its disregard for international rules and the way it takes advantage of its global hegemony”.
“This is not the first time the Trump administration has made such an absurd request to the WTO, nor is it the first time that the Trump administration has given an ultimatum to an international organisation.”
Another commentary by the People’s Daily on Sunday also blasted The White House statement as “an old trick” and an “arrogant” display, saying that the classification of a developing country at WTO should not be defined by the interests of the US.
“China has never abused the special and differential treatment at the WTO, and has always assumed responsibilities and obligations that are compatible with its own level of development and capabilities. Based on various facts, China is still the largest developing country in the world,” said the People’s Daily commentary.
According to the WTO, there are no formal definitions of developed and developing countries, and individual members can define themselves, although other members can challenge the designations.
China has received the backing from India, South Africa and Venezuela in opposing the US proposal to reform the “special and differential treatment” for developing countries. The four nations submitted a joint paper to the WTO earlier this year saying that the self-classification of developing member status has been a long-standing practice that best serves the WTO’s objectives.
The White House statement argued that the benefits of the developing country status include “longer time frames for imposing [trade] safeguards, generous transition periods, softer tariff cuts, procedural advantages for WTO disputes, and the ability to avail themselves of certain export subsidies – all at the expense of other WTO members”.
The US has long complained that too many WTO members – around two-thirds of the 164 states – define themselves as developing countries to enjoy the associated trade advantages. China has insisted it would not give up the “special and differential treatment” it enjoys as a developing nation at WTO.
“No more!!! Today I directed the US trade representative to take action so that countries stop cheating the system at the expense of the USA!,” Trump said in his tweet.
Trump has directed US trade representative Robert Lighthizer to “use all available means” to change the WTO rules that allow countries to claim the status when economic data does not justify the special treatment, according to The White House statement.
The statement also cited economies it called wealthy but still claiming developing country status, including Brunei, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Macau, Qatar, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates.