World Trade Organization:

Observations on China's Rule of Law Reforms

GAO-02-812T: Published: Jun 6, 2002. Publicly Released: Jun 6, 2002.

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Susan S. Westin
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This testimony describes China's development of rule of law practices related to the commitments China made to the World Trade Organization (WTO), which it joined in November 2001. When China joined the WTO, it agreed that its legal measures would be consistent with its WTO obligations. GAO found 60 commitments that specifically obligate China to enact, repeal, or modify trade-related laws or regulations. In addition, China has made a substantial number of other WTO commitments related to the rule of law in transparency, judicial review, uniform enforcement of laws, and nondiscriminatory treatment. Chinese government officials described how their efforts for reform go beyond China's WTO commitments and include broad reforms of laws and regulations at the national and provincial levels, as well as reforms of judicial and administrative procedures. However, Chinese officials acknowledged the challenges they face in completing the necessary reforms and identified the need for outside training assistance. According to GAO's survey, U.S. businesses in China consider rule of law-related WTO commitments to be important, especially the consistent application of laws, regulations, and practices in China, and enforcement of intellectual property rights. However, a majority of businesses answering the survey anticipated that these rule of law commitments would be difficult for the Chinese to implement, and they identified some concerns over specific implementation issues.

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