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EU says China’s trade policies still too opaque

The European Union on Monday criticised China during a World Trade Organization review of Beijing’s trade policies, complaining that they remain somewhat opaque.

“There remain important transparency deficiencies in China’s trade regime,” the head of the EU delegation John Clarke said in a statement.

“Even though China reiterates its firm commitment to continued opening up and reform — we find the word reform almost about 30 times in China’s government report — we believe this does not duly characterise the current situation in China,” he noted.

“In fact, our companies have reported a worsening of the business climate,” the EU envoy added in the statement which was read at a closed-door WTO meeting on China’s trade policy.

Highlighting the transparency issues, Clarke noted that China replied only this year to questions the EU had tabled during the last trade policy review at the WTO two years ago.

“China’s disregard to some of our questions during the last TPR (trade policy review) in 2008, and the submission of the related replies two years later … is certainly regrettable.

“This is a serious systemic concern,” he added.

Clarke also highlighted Beijing’s regulation of trade, such as a certification scheme for foreign exporters which he described as a “major obstacle … due to the complexity, costs and length of the procedure.”

In addition, he criticised China’s enforcement of intellectual property protection, saying that more effective control and criminal prosecutions were needed.

“Despite various bold reforms undertaken in the run-up to, and during the first years after China’s WTO accession, the level of state interference in the economy is still noticeable and less and less compatible with China’s level of economic development,” said Clarke.

Chinese officials have not yet circulated a meeting statement.