The United States and China resolved more contentious trade issues during 2008 than during the previous year, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, or USTR.
In the 2008 USTR Report to Congress on China's World Trade Organization Compliance, issued in December, USTR concludes that "incremental but important progress in numerous areas" was made "largely because China's leadership displayed an increased willingness to work constructively and cooperatively with the United States."
China acceded to the World Trade Organization, or WTO, on December 11, 2001. The terms of its accession called for China to implement numerous specific commitments over time. All of China's key commitments should have been phased in by December 11, 2006. Since then, the U.S. and other WTO members have placed a strong emphasis on China's full adherence to WTO rules.
China has taken many impressive steps over the last 7 years to reform its economy, while making progress in implementing a set of sweeping WTO accession commitments that required it to reduce tariff rates, to eliminate non-tariff barriers, to provide improved market access for goods and services imported from the U.S. and other WTO members, to treat imported goods on equal terms with domestic goods, to protect intellectual property rights, and to improve transparency.
The USTR report says, "Although it does not appear to be complete in every respect, China's implementation of its WTO commitments has led to increases in U.S. exports to China, while deepening China's integration into the international trading system and facilitating and strengthening the rule of law and the economic reforms that China began thirty years ago."
"Nevertheless," the report notes, "in some areas it appears that China has yet to fully implement important commitments, and in other areas significant questions have arisen regarding China's adherence to ongoing WTO obligations, including core WTO principles." These problems, says the report, "can be traced to China's pursuit of industrial policies that rely on excessive, trade-distorting government intervention intended to promote or protect China's domestic industries."
Going forward, the United States will work with China on resolving trade issues including intellectual property rights, industrial policies, trading rights and distribution services, agriculture, transparency, and services. Based on the positive results of 2008, the United States is optimistic that significant progress can be made in the year ahead.