Ten Years Is Not Enough Time

After 15 years of heavy negotiations, China joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in December
2001. The start was met with mixed emotions by China’s own people, mainly for two reasons: On one
hand, there was the abolition of duties for agricultural products. On the other hand, people were
afraid that the just-beginning rise of the Mainland Chinese as global suppliers would be
jeopardized. None of this has happened.

China became the second-largest global economy within 10 years, which is amazing. It also
turned out to be the largest exporter in the world and the second-largest importer of goods, with a
trade volume of some US$3,000 billion. And the Western textile machinery industry benefited
heavily, because China was now the powerhouse of textile production.

Another positive factor was a fundamental change in the attitude of Chinese people to stay
away from protectionism and product piracy, as was the implementation of a dependable legal system.
The system more or less works; however, some doubts still linger.

Now something has happened: Recently, some 50 members of the WTO signed a so-called “pact
against protectionism.” It is rather astonishing that rising economies such as Brazil, India, China
and South Africa didn’t sign the treaty, although they defend vigorously their own political
sovereignty. In a separate paper, these nations declared their standpoint that they can cope with
those ideas to fight against protectionism. However, everybody knows that emerging countries – if
that term can be applied to these countries today – have a different point of view concerning free
trade. By the way, most of the Western world does, too. One only has to think about the subsidies
for agricultural products.

The fathers of the WTO must have been sort of like fortune tellers, knowing that what you
perceive as the truth is not always what your opponent perceives as the truth. They established a
forum for countries to settle problems in their relationships. For example, the United States and
China use this forum quite a lot. It seems that 10 years is not enough time.

January/February/March 2012