China Marks Decade of WTO Membership

China became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on December 11, 2001, the culmination of a process that stretched out over a period of almost fifteen and a half years. In the decade since becoming a WTO member, China has made great strides from being relatively isolated from international trade standards and regulations, to meeting requirements for full participation in world trade. Steps taken to meet WTO regulations have included lowering tariffs, eliminating non-tariff barriers, the opening up of domestic markets, and promoting market reforms. Today, China is the biggest exporter in the world, and ranks as the world’s second largest importer. However it has achieved this will battling against trade protectionism and resistance against its low-price products from authorities in both developed and developing nations.

Statistics for the period of 2000 to 2010 reveal that the volume of China’s exports went from US$249.2 billion to US$1,600 billion, with imports increasing from US$225.4 billion to US$1,400 billion. This tremendous boost in trade and unprecedented growth in China’s economy has resulted in its economy becoming the second largest in the world, with the world’s largest foreign exchange reserve. It has also resulted in the creation of millions of jobs.

With this increased economic activity in China’s domestic markets, and consumers having more disposable income, imports of raw materials from developing countries rich in natural resources has reportedly resulted in job creation beyond the borders of China. The spin-off of job creation in developing nations is more consumers with an increased demand for low-cost items from China.

In a recent interview, the head of China’s Ministry of Commerce, Chen Deming, acknowledged that China is dealing with challenges such as rising labor costs, as well as environmental and resource restrictions, but pointed out that with wide-ranging industrial infrastructure and facilities, close links to the outside world and an abundance of human resources, China will continue to be competitive in global markets.

While the “Made in China” marking on an ever-increasing range of goods around the world may rile competitors, consumers welcome the low prices and continue to create a demand. Complaints of inferior quality still surface from time to time, but appear to be less prominent as authorities accept that trading with China makes good business sense.