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  • Writer's pictureStephen Fodor

U.S., trading partners urge China to liberalise further

October 21, 2021

(Reuters) - The United States said on Wednesday that China’s industrial policies "skew the playing field" against imported goods and services, as well as their foreign providers, and that Washington would pursue all means to secure reforms.

Other "unfair trade practices" include preferential treatment for state enterprises, data restrictions, inadequate enforcement of intellectual property rights and cyber theft, U.S. charge d'affaires David Bisbee told the World Trade Organization.

He was addressing a closed-door WTO meeting held to conduct the watchdog's first review of China's trade policy since 2018.

"We also cannot ignore reports of China’s use of forced labour in several sectors," Bisbee said, in an apparent reference to activists' allegations regarding ethnic Uyghurs held in detention in Xinjiang, a charge that Beijing denies.

The United States would pursue all available tools to try to persuade China to make needed changes, he added in remarks made available by the U.S. trade delegation in Geneva.

China's 20-member delegation to the talks was led by Commerce Minister Wang Wentao. Trade sources quoted Wang as saying that China's basic policy was to open up its economy and deepen reforms while abiding by WTO rules.

But other WTO members urged China to press on with reforms to achieve fairer market competition and transparency, they said.

Australia urged China to give up its access to special and differential treatment, granted when it joined the WTO 20 years ago, and said that China's practices increasingly have been inconsistent with its WTO commitments, according to trade sources.

Japan also voiced concern over a lack of transparency and urged China to address issues of trade-distorting measures and state-owned enterprises, they added.

Bisbee said the United States had brought 27 cases for dispute settlement against China to the WTO, securing victories, but many of them were "hollow."

"Even when China changed the specific practices that we had challenged, China often did not change the underlying policies, and meaningful reforms by China remained elusive," he said.

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