China says WTO faces ‘profound crisis’ — urges reform

Shoppers browse their phones outside a fashion boutique selling US brand clothing in a Beijing shopping mall. China and the US have clashed about how the WTO should reform to better serve member interests. (AP Photo)
Updated 23 November 2018

China says WTO faces ‘profound crisis’ — urges reform

  • Members of the G20 are expected to discuss WTO reform when they meet at a summit in Argentina next week
  • Debate on reforming the WTO has been largely driven by US complaints that it has failed to police suspected Chinese rule-breaking

BEIJING: China urged the World Trade Organization (WTO) to close loopholes and correct practices by some member states that damage global trade, warning of a “profound crisis” facing the institution’s existence.
China and the United States have clashed about how the WTO should reform to better serve member interests, amid a widening trade dispute that has triggered billions in retaliatory tariffs and rocked global markets.
Members of the G20 are expected to discuss WTO reform when they meet at a summit in Argentina next week, following a failed attempt to reach agreement on the topic at an APEC forum held last week in Papua New Guinea.
Debate on reforming the WTO has been largely driven by US complaints that it has failed to police suspected Chinese rule-breaking, with US President Donald Trump threatening a withdrawal to protect American interests.
The United States wants the WTO to crack down on China’s subsidies for state-owned enterprises (SOE), overcapacity in steel and other basic industries, and on the practice of forcing investors to hand over valuable technology.
At a news conference on Friday, China’s Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen unveiled a list of detailed demand and principles to clarify China’s stance that reform should uphold core WTO values, ensure fairness and protect developing countries’ interests.
He took aim at what he called “excessive” agriculture subsidies enjoyed exclusively by developed countries, saying some member states had exploited loopholes in the WTO system.
Reforms should correct some countries’ discrimination against investments by other countries and companies, and not be used as a way to deprive China of the right to enjoy differentiated treatment as a developing country, Wang said, without naming any countries.
“Some countries are in reality just hoping to uphold their monopoly status and restrict other member states’ development,” he said.
Referring to state-owned enterprises (SOEs), he said China opposed groundless criticism of “normal SOE and industrial subsidies” and “normal sharing of technological innovations.”
Wang added the WTO should try to resolve a deadlock in appointments to its Appellate Body, which have been blocked by the United States which blames the dispute settlement body’s judges for hampering a US campaign against what it sees as unfair trade practices.
China’s ambassador to the WTO, Zhang Xiangchen, said this week that China would not have views forced upon it as he warned fellow WTO members against seeing reform as a chance to put China in a straitjacket.
“The WTO should prioritize key issues that threaten the institution’s existence,” Wang said.


Saudi minister: OPEC+ will take responsible approach to virus

Updated 26 February 2020

Saudi minister: OPEC+ will take responsible approach to virus

  • Saudi Arabia supports the further oil production cut, but Russia is yet to announce its final position on the matter

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said on Tuesday he was confident that OPEC and its partner oil-producing nations, the so-called OPEC+ group, would respond responsibly to the spread of the coronavirus.

He also said Saudi Arabia and Russia would continue to engage regarding oil policy.

“Everything serious requires being attended to,” the minister, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman, told reporters at an industry conference in Riyadh.

An OPEC+ committee this month recommended the group deepen its output cuts by an additional 600,000 barrels per day.

Saudi Arabia supports the further oil production cut, but Russia is yet to announce its final position on the matter.

The minister said he was still talking with Moscow and that he was confident of Riyadh’s partnership with the rest of the OPEC+ group.

“We did not run out of ideas, we have not closed our phones. There is always a good way of communicating through conference calls,” he said.

Regarding the coronavirus, which has impacted OPEC member Iran, he said OPEC+ members should not be complacent about the virus but added he was confident every OPEC+ member was a responsible and responsive producer.

The flu-like SARS-CoV-2 virus, which first broke out in China, has now spread to more than 20 countries.

“Of course there is an impact and we are assessing, but we’ll do whatever we can in our next meeting and we’ll address that issue,” UAE Energy Minister Suhail Al-Mazrouei said at the same industry conference.

Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser on Monday said he expected a short-lived impact on oil demand.

“We think this is short term and I am confident that in the second half of the year there is going to be an improvement on the demand side, especially from China,” he said.

Oil climbed on Tuesday as investors sought bargains after crude benchmarks slumped almost 4 percent in the previous session, although concerns about the global spread of the virus capped gains.