Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 July 2009
Accession to the WTO was a milestone in China's development, modernization and integration into the world economy. The reform era in China, and other East Asian transition economies, has been a period of extraordinary growth in trade and output. Part of the growth has flowed from economic reforms that stimulated the opening up to the outside world, and part from economic growth that opening up to the world has done much to facilitate. Recognition of the benefits of openness for growth and poverty reduction has been an important element in China's willingness to make the difficult reforms involved in WTO accession.
Like economic reform in China generally, trade-policy reform has been complex and incremental. The reforms required by WTO accession will begin from policies that contain many features inherited from earlier eras, such as state trading monopolies that date to the command economy, and duty exemptions and rebates that date from the need in the early reform era to stimulate labour-intensive exports of manufactures despite a regime of high trade barriers.
China's accession agreement is complex. It reflects the interests and concerns of policy-makers in China and in WTO members involved in the negotiations. While the agreement will involve widespread reductions in protection, it cannot be represented as a move to free trade or a simple proportional cut in protection, as many studies have tried to do.
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