EU urged to speed up measures to meet China trade deadline

The European Commission called on European Union institutions and member states to speed up action on proposed new trade defense instruments to come into effect when the protocols on calculating anti-dumping tariffs involving Chinese exporters expire in December.

The December 11 deadline marks the 15th anniversary of China’s accession to the World Trade Organization.

The Commission, the executive arm of the 28-member EU, issued a document ahead of its Wednesday weekly meeting urging finalization of a package of proposals on the long-debated issue between China and EU.

The Commission said it has already put forward proposals in 2013 but they had failed to gain unanimous agreement from European institutions and member states as the December deadline approaches.

The meeting comes one day after China’s Vice-Premier Ma Kai and Vice-President of the European Commission, Jyrki Katainen, confirmed that Brussels would live up to its obligations under China’s WTO accession agreements signed 15 years ago.

China maintains that its WTO accession deal included automatic recognition of Market Economy Status, which some EU members object to.

At their annual high-level trade and economic dialogue on Tuesday, both sides also agreed to jointly put impetus into the global economy, cut steel overcapacity and speed up bilateral investment talks while injecting more efforts to find synergies between European investment scheme and China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

During the 15-year WTO transitional period, the accession agreement allowed the EU and other WTO members, in anti-dumping cases, to compare the cost of China’s exports with that of a surrogate country and to disregard China as a market economy. The EU usually choses economies where the cost is much higher than in China in order to calculate the margins of industry injury and to levy anti-dumping tariffs on China’s exporters.

Many European Union member states, such as the UK, the Nordic countries, Greece, Hungary and the Netherlands, have favored abiding by China’s WTO accession protocol. Globally, up to 100 countries worldwide have treated China as a market economy since its WTO entry in 2001.

After meeting with Ma Kai on Tuesday, Kris Peeters, Belgium’s deputy prime minister, said in a news release that his country also believed it must abide by provisions and agreements of China’s WTO accession.

However, the experts have warned that it is still too early to conclude that the European Union will complete the complex debate, consultation and approval procedures to reform its trade defense instruments before a December 11 deadline.

Fredrik Erixon, director of Brussels-based European Center for International Political Economy said it is not a decision for the European Commission to make on its own. It needs the support of member states and the European Parliament, and for the time being there is not enough support for them to change EU anti-dumping legislation reflecting China’s market economy status.

“Let’s see what happens,”said Erixon during an interview with China Daily.

“The way the Commission has proposed to deal with it, proposing a wholesale reform of how trade defense instruments deal with trade-distortive state interventions, is very complicated and will take time to get through the EU machinery.”

Pierre Defraigne, Executive Director for the Brussels-based think-tank the Madariaga College of Europe Foundation said the EU should have treated China as a market economy at an earlier date but it failed due to its long-time policy of following the United States regarding to its China policy.

“I have long called on the EU to treat China as a market economy but it is regretable that it had not shown such political vision as of today,”said Defraigne, who worked as cabinet head of former trade commissioner Pascal Lamy when China joined WTO in 2001.

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