The World Trade Organization's (WTO) 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) is being held at its headquarters in Geneva. This is the first WTO ministerial conference in four and a half years, during which important and urgent issues such as pandemic response, fishery subsidies, agricultural reform and WTO reform will be discussed.
China's Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao led a delegation to participate in the opening ceremony and delivered a speech at the plenary session, saying China firmly upholds the multilateral trading system with the WTO at its core. When China "joined the WTO" in 2001, it was difficult for everyone to imagine that this "newcomer" would provide the WTO with precious support 20 years later.
The WTO is not only a fundamental platform for multilateralism, but also a banner. It has played a huge positive role in promoting globalization and realizing trade prosperity. To this day, the multilateral trading system with the WTO at its core is still the cornerstone of international trade. But it is now encountering some difficulties. Some Western media said that it is "facing one of its most dire moments," and some even warned that the organization is facing disintegration, and this mechanism is in "serious jeopardy."
It should be pointed out that the current difficulties encountered by the WTO are closely related to the increasingly out-of-control tendencies of protectionism and unilateralism in Washington in recent years. Under the extremely selfish "America First" policy, Washington has repeatedly discarded WTO rules, ignored and resisted relevant rulings unfavorable to it, and even bypassed the arbitration mechanism to impose unilateral sanctions, which seriously undermined the authority of the WTO. Just before the ongoing ministerial conference, the US rejected for the 54th time the relevant proposal to restart the selection process of the judges of the Appellate Body, which directly caused the Appellate Body, known as the "Supreme Court" of the WTO, to remain suspended. The paralysis of the dispute settlement mechanism, one of the three main functions of the WTO, is the most serious crisis since its establishment.
Washington has also publicly expressed its dissatisfaction with the WTO's existing mechanism on many occasions, claiming that this mechanism allows China to exploit benefits and take advantage of developed countries. It believes that China has become the world's second largest economy after its entry into the WTO largely because China "unfairly" sold a lot of things to the US and made use of the WTO mechanism. Some US media even claimed that China "brought down" the WTO. But in fact, in the 21 years since China's accession to the WTO, China's contribution to world economic growth is close to 30 percent on average, which is a typical win-win situation, and most countries are happy to see this.
The WTO, the most important multilateral trading mechanism in the world, was initially established under the leadership of the US. However, when the US discovered that the WTO had gradually got rid of Washington's control and could not provide "green path" for its hegemony, its attitude took a U-turn. Not only did it act in complete disregard of the WTO's rules and principles, but it also strangled the Appellate Body, which upholds the rule of law in international trade. According to statistics, the total amount of trade protectionist measures implemented by the US in recent years ranks first in the world, reaching more than 1,000. The US only adheres to international rules that serve its interests, and discards those that don't. Washington's hypocrisy, arrogance and selfishness are most vividly reflected in the WTO.
However, multilateralism is the general trend, which even the US, as a superpower, cannot go against. Just as WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said in her opening remarks, the multilateral instrument represented by WTO is the best. The effective operation of the WTO is essential to safeguard global trade prosperity, and maintaining the multilateral trading system with WTO at the core should be the premise of reforming WTO, which must be reaffirmed. In addition, we believe that the most urgent task is to restore the operation of the WTO Appellate Body and uphold the authority of WTO, resisting unilateralism and trade protectionism to continue harming globalization.
The WTO has come a long way with 164 members today, and it has formed a set of mechanism to promote free trade and settle differences through countless arduous negotiations, which is not easy. Although the US is not satisfied to be only 1/164 part of it, the WTO will not be dominated by the US. Multilateralism may encounter some setbacks, but it won't stop its steps forward. Not matter what achievements this conference will reach, the fact that 164 members can gather together has already demonstrated the popular will of the international community.