By Cristina Font Haro

On Friday the 29th of June, I had the pleasure to appear on TV China 24 that belongs to the CGNT channel. They interviewed me about the ‘Chinese White Papers’ subject. During the interview, I had the honor to share the space with a Senior Research Fellow Su Qingyi from the Institute of World Economics and Politics Chinese Academy of Social Science.

As a European Policy Analyst of China, Beijing was interested to know and compare their approach to the White Papers to ours. The day before, on Thursday the 28th of June, the State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China released the White Papers related to their relationship with WTO. As we know, for several weeks already we have all been immersed in a commercial dispute that the American President, Donald Trump, started. Following the America First agenda, Trump is trying to change the international rules that have steered global exchanges until now. While all players, regardless of whether they are whales or small fish, embrace the multilateral game, Trump’s mission is to hunt the evil poltergeist behind it. 

In this context, where the main player tries to quit the game, the European Union feels lost, attacked and badly hurt. The US and the EU have always been the natural ally in all levels but, the American decision to hide in a box forces the Europeans to look for a new partner. Will China become the EU’s new best friend?

China 24’s first question for me was regarding the statement of US ambassador to China Terry Branstad on Friday (June 29) which was that there is ‘skepticism’ in the US government that the Chinese are willing to make enough progress soon enough on trade issues. Regarding that statement, if I think that China will follow through on its pledges to truly open up. 

Secondly, they asked me what impact would it have on bilateral and global trade if China and the US spiraling trade issues are settled through the WTO framework. 

As I see it, China became a WTO newcomer on December 11th, 2001, that is 17 years ago. So, China spent the last 17 years learning how to open-up; accepting and fulfilling as much as it could the high-standard requirements for newcomers from the US and the EU; consistently reforming, developing the socialist market economy and improving its legal system; becoming a quite business-friendly environment. 

On the other hand, America is truly an example of how a global and open-up country can change its agenda overnight. But, that doesn’t mean the other players will follow its example. According to WTO statistics, China’s imports accounted for 10.2 percent of the world total merchandise imports in 2017, and its exports 12.8 percent, making China a major trade partner of more than 120 countries and regions. In this scenario, PRC has the moral obligation of continuing playing the game. 

Secondly, the day that the US and China settle down their commercial dispute through the WTO framework will come, though this will not be soon enough. Most probably it will require a change in the Administration’s head. Hence, what will have a great impact on bilateral and global trade is actually this context that we are living in. That is, while the US continues hiding in a box, the rest of the world will continue playing the global trade game and adapting it to their own benefit. Until now most of the rules were favorable and natural to the US due to it being one of the sea’s whales. In addition, the US did the partnership with the EU as part of its strategies but now Europeans feel betrayed. They need to find a new ally. In this favorable context, a mutual approach could be made between the EU and China. A new “European-Asian way” could be born. 

Even though, we don’t know what will happen the next months, what is certain is that now the players have space to speak out about what they want and if the US delays its return; the world will no longer be shaped to fit it. 

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