China and the WTO: On a Path to Leadership?
Forthcoming in Zeng, Ka (ed.), Handbook of the International Political Economy of China, Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd. , 2018
Hebrew University of Jerusalem International Law Forum Working Series 05-18
51 Pages Posted: 9 Jun 2018
Date Written: May 15, 2018
This chapter considers whether China has embarked on a path to WTO leadership since its historic accession in 2001. I argue that China is increasingly displaying the will to lead, an essential prerequisite for state leadership. China has become progressively more proactive, making independent proposals, joining undertakings initiated by other members, submitting numerous notifications, and regularly filing formal dispute settlement complaints despite its historical aversion to international adjudication.
But does its growing participation signal leadership? China's trajectory towards WTO leadership is analyzed by identifying signs of its will to lead in the WTO--in its rhetoric, its participation and its initiatives. I maintain that indications of China's will to lead are evident, for example, in its strong support of globalization and the multilateral trading system (not trivial given US policy since the advent of Trump), China's continuing endorsement of the Doha Round negotiations (in contrast to other members that have declared the talks dead), and its initiation of talks on investment facilitation and active participation in talks on electronic commerce, among other things. At the same time, other factors are holding it back. For one, it is still learning how to lead in the WTO, despite moving considerably up the learning curve. More significantly, evidence of the willingness of other members to follow is presently limited. The essay aims at offering insight into China's behavior as a leader in the WTO, and the future leadership role China may play in the changing international trade environment, in which China paradoxically is taking over as the champion of an open global trading system, and possibly replacing US leadership in global economic governance.
Keywords: China, WTO, International Trade, State Leadership, Accession, Dispute Settlement
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