Trade Liberalization in China's Accession to the World Trade Organization

37 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2016

See all articles by Elena Ianchovichina

Elena Ianchovichina

World Bank

Will J. Martin

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Date Written: June 22, 2001


China's forthcoming access to the World Trade Organization involves reform in many sectors, both domestic and trade-related. The starting point for reform is a partially reformed economy with relatively high import duties, in which export sectors benefit from liberal duty exemptions on inputs. Both China and its major trading partners will gain from access - with China gaining most (perhaps half of the estimated $56 billion in annual welfare gains). Some developing countries will suffer small losses because of increased competition from China. The adjustments required are greatly reduced by China's dramatic liberalization in the 1990s.

Before reform, China's trade was dominated by a few foreign trade corporations with monopolies on the trade of specific ranges of products. Planners could control imports through these corporations so there was little need for conventional instruments such as tariffs, quotas, and licenses. Trade reforms increased the range of enterprises eligible to trade in specific commodities and led to the development of indirect new trade instruments, such as duty exemptions. Duty exemptions almost completely liberalized the imports of intermediate inputs used to produce exports and investment goods used in join ventures with foreign enterprises.

Comprehensive liberalization measures in China's World Trade Organization (WTO) accession package will help ease this problem as tariff reduction reduces the costs of domestic inputs to exporters. WTO commitments will also lead to the abolition of most nontariff barriers and of quotas on textiles and clothing.

With accession, China's share of world exports may almost double between 1995 and 2005 - an estimate that is smaller than those found in studies that do not incorporate duty exemptions. (Duty exemptions were a form of partial liberalization, so any further reduction in protection will boost trade volume less than some estimate.) With reform, labor-intensive industries are expected to grow most, especially exports of apparel. Wages of unskilled workers should rise.

This paper - a product of Trade, Development Research Group - is part of a larger effort in the group to assess the implications of trade reform for developing countries.

Suggested Citation

Ianchovichina, Elena and Martin, William J., Trade Liberalization in China's Accession to the World Trade Organization (June 22, 2001). Available at SSRN:

Elena Ianchovichina (Contact Author)

World Bank ( email )

1818 H. Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20433
United States
202-458-8910 (Phone)
202-522-1159 (Fax)

William J. Martin

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ( email )

1201 Eye St, NW,
Washington, DC 20005
United States

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