WTO Dispute Settlement in 2022 — to date (April 5, 2022) European Union is only WTO Member to file new disputes

With 2022 more than one quarter over, the European Union remains the only WTO Member to file a new WTO dispute this year, and it has filed five requests for consultation. The United States has spent the first fifteen months of the Biden Administration seeking resolution to long-standing disputes but to date has filed no new cases (2021-2022). China had filed a number of disputes in 2021 and is the subject of various disputes filed in the 2021-2022 including two of the EU cases this year.

Two of the five cases filed in 2022 by the EU were against China and are reviewed in prior posts. See February 21, 2022:  The European Union’s February 18, 2022 request for consultations with China over China’s “anti-suit injunctions” in intellectual property disputes and its failure to publish decisions and respond to EU inquiries,; January 27, 2022:  The European Union requests consultations with China at the WTO for restrictions on Lithuanian goods imposed by China, On the intellectual property dispute, Japan, United States and Canada have requested to join the consultations. On the EU’s challenge to China’s actions on goods from Lithuania, six other Members have sought to join the consultations — Australia, Taiwan, Japan, United States, United Kingdom, and Canada.

The other three requests for consultations filed by the EU this year include one filed with the Russian Federation (DS608) concerning the exportation of wood products, one with Egypt (D609) concerning registration requirements relating to the importation of certain products and the latest one with the United Kingdom (DS612) concerning measures relating to the allocation of contracts for difference in low carbon energy generation.

The case against the Russian Federation deals with the termination of tariff-rate quotas on exports of wood products, other increases in export duties on wood products, reduction of the number of border crossing points for the exportation of wood products and the introduction of export restrictions or prohibitions on certain wood products by the Eurasian Economic Union. WTO inconsistencies alleged by the EU include Art. I:1, II:1(a), XI:1, XIII:1 of GATT 1994 and Paragraph 2, second sentence, of the Protocol on the Accession of the Russian Federation in conjunction with paragraphs 638, 668, and 1450 of the Report of the Working Party. WT/DS608/1/Rev.1, G/L/1434/Rev.1 (27 February 2022).

The request for consultations with Egypt involves challenges to Egyptian measures that apply to EU companies wishing to export to Egypt where registration requirements exist (29 categories of goods “including agricultural and food products, cosmetics, toys, textiles, garments, household appliances, furniture and ceramic tiles.”). The requirements are alleged to burdensome, non-transparent, costly and time-consuming and some registration applications have not been processed even after years. The Egyptian measures of concern raise questions about consistency with WTO GATT 1994 Articles XI:1, VIII:1(c), VIII:3, X:1, X:3(a); Art. 4.2 of the Agriculture Agreement and Articles 1.2, 1.5 3.3, 3.5(e) and 3.5(f) of the Import Licensing Agreement. WT/DS609/1, G/L/1425 (27 January 2022). The Russian Federation has sought to join consultations. WT/DS609/2.

The most recent request for consultations with the United Kingdom involves local content requirements for incentivised low carbon electricity generation projects (e.g., offshore wind). “The measures at issue described above appear to be inconsistent with the United Kingdom’s obligations under the covered agreements, in particular Article III:4 of the GATT 1994, inasmuch as, by incentivising applicants to commit to and implement an ambitious percentage of Untied Kingdom content of the allocation of CfD, they accord less favourable treatment to imported goods than to like domestic goods.” WT/DS612/1, G/L/1428 (30 March 2022).

Of the five cases, the two against China are probably the most important systemically. The case about retaliation by China against Lithuania addresses a recurring problem with China punishing WTO Members who take positions with which China disagrees, The intellectual property case as described in a prior post is important to prevent China from blocking IP rights holders from obtaining the benefits of IP that the TRIPS Agreement safeguards.

The Russian Federation case may proceed but is overshadowed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and sanctions imposed by many countries, including by the EU. That said, the case deals with what appear to be clear violations of WTO obligations by Russia.

The case against Turkey is typical of a range of disputes over the years against countries who adopt a series of barriers to access to the market to protect domestic industries. While there can always be potentially relevant standards issues or health/safety issues, the actions of Egypt sound as though they simply slow down, limit or block import trade.

Finally, the case against the United Kingdom deals with the efforts of many countries to speed up adoption of renewable energy and reflect the important systemic issue of the interface between domestic incentives and WTO obligations on national treatment.

At the last Dispute Settlement Body meeting (March 28, 2022), many WTO Members continued to seek the reestablishment of a two tier dispute settlement process which the United States continues to block. See WTO News Release, Members continue push to commence Appellate Body appointment process, 28 March 2022, The statements made appear to be identical or similar to those made over the last several years. The WTO news release on the meeting and the issue of the Appellate Body is copied below in relevant part.

“Appellate Body appointments

“Mexico, speaking on behalf of 123 members, introduced for the 52nd time the group’s proposal to start the selection processes for filling vacancies on the Appellate Body. The extensive number of members submitting the proposal reflects a common concern over the current situation in the Appellate Body which is seriously affecting the overall WTO dispute settlement system against the best interest of members, Mexico said for the group.

“The United States reiterated it was not in a position to support the proposed decision.  The US continues to have systemic concerns with the Appellate Body, which it has explained and raised over the past 16 years and across multiple administrations.  The US said it believes that WTO members must undertake fundamental reform if the dispute settlement system is to remain viable and credible.  The dispute settlement system can and should better support the WTO’s negotiating and monitoring functions, the US said, adding that it looked forward to further discussions with members on these important issues.

“Around 20 delegations (including the EU for its 27 members and Nigeria for the African Group) took the floor to reiterate the importance of the WTO’s two-tiered dispute settlement system to the stability and predictability of the multilateral trading system.  Several cited this issue as the top priority for reform of the organization and said the continued impasse was causing both commercial harm to members and systemic harm to multilateral trade.

“For the 123 members, Mexico again came back to say the fact a member may have concerns about certain aspects of the functioning of the Appellate Body cannot serve as pretext to impair and disrupt the work of the DSB and dispute settlement in general, and that there was no legal justification for the current blocking of the selection processes, which is causing concrete nullification and impairment of rights for many members.

“The DSB chair, Ambassador Athaliah Lesiba Molokomme of Botswana, noted the previous General Council chair has been working on the issue of restoring a fully functioning dispute settlement system within the context of preparations for the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference. She said she hoped members would be able to find a solution to this matter.”

I have reviewed in many prior posts the longstanding and well articulated concerns of the United States, concerns which have largely not been addressed in the process to date. See, e.g., February 14, 2020: USTR’s Report on the WTO Appellate Body – An Impressive Critique of the Appellate Body’s Deviation from Its Proper Role,

I have also in recent posts looked at individual disputes where the U.S. was the respondent and reviewed problems with the decisions. See, e.g., February 9, 2022:  The WTO Panel Report, UNITED STATES – SAFEGUARD MEASURE ON IMPORTS OF LARGE RESIDENTIAL WASHERS, WT/DS546/R (8 February 2022),; January 27, 2022:  WTO Arbitration Report on China’s challenge to U.S. countervailing duty investigations — while retaliation is much smaller than China sought, core problems with original Appellate Body decision flags challenge to restoring the Dispute Settlement binding process,; December 29, 2021:  WTO Dispute Settlement — What the Recently Adopted Panel Report on United States – Antidumping and Countervailing Duties on Ripe Olives from Spain says about the existing dispute settlement system and about needed WTO reforms,

Thus, it is unlikely that the twice delayed 12th Ministerial Conference to be held in Geneva June 13-15 this year will resolve the impasse on the Appellate Body. While it is possible that a process may be agreed to to examine the root problems and formulate possible solutions as part of the WTO reform agenda, even that may be optimistic in the current environment.

Existing disputes continue to proceed, with various resolutions possible in cases even among countries who have not signed up to the Agreement on the Interim Arbitration Process, although two dozen panel reports have been “appealed” but cannot be heard until/unless an Appellate Body is reconsituted. Such appeals have been taken by a number of Members including by Members who are parties to the interim process (e.g., EU on a panel report of a challenge to a trade remedy proceeding against the Russian Federation). See, e.g., WTO Dispute Settlement, Appellate Body, (listing 24 cases where appeals are pending).

This Friday (April 8, 2022) , there is a Dispute Settlement Body meeting to consider a joint request by the Republic of Korea and the United States in the dispute involving UNITED STATES – SAFEGUARD MEASURE ON IMPORTS OF LARGE RESIDENTIAL WASHERS that would have the DSB adopt a decision that the panel report is adopted unless an appeal is filed by July 7, 2022 (essentially extending the time to appeal the panel report presumably to give the parties more time to consider a mutually acceptable resolution). WT/DS546/8 (29 March 2022).

So whether there is a resolution to the Appellate Body impasse or not, WTO Members have ongoing options to address trade concerns including through Committee work, bilateral interactions and disputes through the WTO or through FTAs.


The European Union’s February 18, 2022 request for consultations with China over China’s “anti-suit injunctions” in intellectual property disputes and its failure to publish decisions and respond to EU inquiries

The European Union has been pursuing a series of new disputes since the start of 2022. Three are listed in the WTO list of disputes. See DS610 China — Measures Concerning Trade in Goods and Services (27 January 2022); DS609 Egypt — Registration requirements relating to the importation of certain products (26 January 2022); DS608 Russian Federation — Measures Concerning the Exportation of Wood Products (20 January 2022)(replaced by a request for consultations filed on February 17, 2022).

On Friday, February 18, 2022, the European Union filed a second request for consultations with China and its fourth request this year, this one addressing China’s use of anti-suit injunctions to prevent parties seeking redress from intellectual property infringement by Chinese firms from seeking redress in non-Chinese jurisdictions. Chinese courts can impose penalties of 1 million RMB per day for violating anti-suit injunctions. In addition, many of the court decisions issuing the anti-suit injunctions are not publicly available. China has taken the position it is not obligated to publish the decisions or to provide them when requested by a WTO Member.

The EU reviews in its request for consultations four decisions affecting EU companies all involving patents in the high tech sector (e.g., patents relevant to aspects of 3G, 4G or 5G telecommunications). See EU Request for Consultations, Geneva, 18 February 2022. Because of the importance of the dispute, the full request for consultations is included below.


The European Commission’s press release on the request is copied below and reviews what the European Commission sees as important about the consultation request. See European Commission
Directorate-General for Trade, Press release, EU challenges China at the WTO to defend its high-tech sector, Brussels, 18 February 2022,

“The European Union is filing today a case against China at the World Trade Organization (WTO) for restricting EU companies from going to a foreign court to protect and use their patents.

“China severely restricts EU companies with rights to key technologies (such as 3G, 4G and 5G) from protecting these rights when their patents are used illegally or without appropriate compensation by, for example, Chinese mobile phone manufacturers. The patent holders that do go to court outside China often face significant fines in China, putting them under pressure to settle for licensing fees below market rates. 

“This Chinese policy is extremely damaging to innovation and growth in Europe, effectively depriving European technology companies of the possibility to exercise and enforce the rights that give them a technological edge.

“Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President and Commissioner for Trade, said: ‘We must protect the EU’s vibrant high-tech industry, an engine for innovation that ensures our leading role in developing future innovative technologies. EU companies have a right to seek justice on fair terms when their technology is used illegally. That is why we are launching WTO consultations today.’

“Since August 2020, Chinese courts have been issuing decisions – known as “anti-suit injunctions” – to exert pressure on EU companies with high-tech patents and to prevent them from rightfully protecting their technologies. Chinese courts also use the threat of heavy fines to deter European companies from going to foreign courts.

“This has left European high-tech companies at a significant disadvantage when fighting for their rights. Chinese manufacturers request these anti-suit injunctions to benefit from cheaper or even free access to European technology.

“The EU has raised this issue with China on a number of occasions in an attempt to find a solution, to no avail. As the Chinese actions are, according to the EU, inconsistent with the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), the EU has requested consultations at the WTO.

Next steps

“The dispute settlement consultations that the EU has requested are the first step in WTO dispute settlement proceedings. If they do not lead to a satisfactory solution within 60 days, the EU can request the WTO to set up a panel to rule on the matter.


“The patents concerned by this case are standard-essential patents (SEPs). SEPs are patents that are essential in order to manufacture goods that meet a certain international standard. Because the use of the technologies protected by these patents is mandatory for the production of, for example, a mobile phone, patent owners have committed to licensing these patents to manufacturers under fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms. A mobile phone manufacturer should, therefore, obtain a license (subject to a license fee negotiated with the patent holder) for these patents. If a manufacturer does not obtain a licence, and/or refuses to pay, a patent holder can enforce these patents and get a court to stop the sales of the products incorporating that unlicensed technology.

“In August 2020, China’s Supreme People’s Court decided that Chinese courts can prohibit patent holders from going to a non-Chinese court to enforce their patents by putting in place an ‘anti-suit injunction’. The Supreme People’s Court also decided that violation of the order can be sanctioned with a €130,000 daily fine. Since then, Chinese courts have adopted four such anti-suit injunctions against foreign patent holders.”


The EU has been a strong backer of the WTO’s dispute settlement system. Launching four new disputes in the first two months of 2022 shows the EU’s continued intent to utilize the WTO dispute settlement system.

On the specific request for consultations filed last Friday with China, both the EU and China are parties to the Multi-Party Interim Appeal Arbitration Arrangement (MPIA) that was agreed to by some WTO Members for handling further review of panel decisions while the Appellate Body is not operational. Thus, there will not be an appeal into the wind by either China or the EU from whatever decision flows from the dispute if a panel is sought later this year.

On the substance of the request for consultations, China has demonstrated an unwillingness to comply with full transparency obligations at the WTO which is reflected in several of the issues raised by the EU (lack of public release of certain judicial decisions; failure to provide such information when requested by the EU). China’s failure to comply with transparency obligations is a major issue for trading partners in many areas of the WTO’s work.

More importantly, the actions of China in authorizing anti-suit injunctions is a major challenge to the proper functioning of intellectual property rights which should draw participation requests from many other WTO Members. China has been viewed by many as permitting/encouraging/supporting intellectual property theft — a view hotly denied by China. Letting Chinese courts prevent other courts around the world from evaluating patent infringement by Chinese companies or setting licensing fees is not consistent with WTO obligations and could obviously lead to abuse by the Chinese courts and substantial harm to innovative companies around the world.

The EU’s request for consultation is a very important first step in ensuring that China conforms to its obligations under the TRIPS Agreement. The fact that resolution will take years will permit Chinese companies to weaken intellectual property protection for years for innovative companies in other countries.

USTR’s 2021 Report to Congress on China’s WTO Compliance — a recognition that all of China’s distortions to competition cannot be dealt with within the WTO

China’s retreat over the last 15 years from reforms to move its economy to a market-based one has led the United States, first under the Trump Administration and now under the Biden Administration, to view some actions outside of the WTO as necessary to deal with the many distortions in trade being experienced by China’s practices. The U.S. position is made clear in today’s (February 16, 2022) report from the U.S. Trade Representative, 2021 Report to Congress on China’s WTO Compliance,’s%20WTO%20Compliance.pdf. As stated in the USTR press release on the Report,

“WASHINGTON – The Office of the United States Trade Representative today released its annual “2021 Report to Congress on China’s WTO Compliance,” laying out the Biden Administration’s assessment of China’s membership in the World Trade Organization.

“’China has not moved to embrace the market-oriented principles on which the WTO and its rules are based, despite the representations that it made when it joined 20 years ago,’ said Ambassador Katherine Tai. ‘China has instead retained and expanded its state-led, non-market approach to the economy and trade. It is clear that in pursuing that approach, China’s policies and practices challenge the premise of the WTO’s rules and cause serious harm to workers and businesses around the world, particularly in industries targeted by China’s industrial plans.’

“The Biden Administration is pursuing a multi-faceted approach to address the harm caused by China’s trade and economic policies through both bilateral engagement with China and the use of trade tools to protect American workers and businesses.  The Administration’s strategy also includes enhanced engagement with allies and partners in order to build broad support for solutions to the many unique problems posed by China and defending our shared interests.”

Indeed, as reviewed in prior posts, former Deputy Director-General of the WTO Alan Wolff has articulated that the WTO is premised on economies converging to a market-based structure. Coexistence of fundamentally different economic systems – the path China is insisting on – is simply incompatible with WTO principles. See, e.g., January 16, 2022:  Is it time for a new approach to bilateral trade with China? (and posts cited therein on DDG Wolff’s comments).

The frustrations with the many distortions caused by China’s economic system and the inability of the WTO to effectively address the distortions has led at least one former senior trade official to opine about the desirability of market economies withdrawing from the WTO and establishing a new organization. See July 25, 2020:  A new WTO without China?  The July 20, 2020 Les Echos opinion piece by Mogens Peter Carl, a former EC Director General for Trade and then Environment,

The challenges also led the Trump Administration to take aggressive action under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 (steel and aluminum global excess capacity driven largely by China) and Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 (various practices of China).

Moreover, part of the U.S. concern about problems with the WTO dispute settlement system was the effect of problems on the U.S. ability to address Chinese market distortions. See, e.g., August 9, 2020:  USTR Lighthizer on WTO dispute settlement – answers to Congressional questions from June 17 hearings, (“‘Appellate Body overreaching has unfairly taken away U.S. rights and advantaged China. Through a series of deeply flawed reports, the Appellate Body has eroded the U.S. ability under WTO rules to counteract economic distortions caused by China’s non-market practices that harm our workers and businesses. For example, the Appellate Body’s erroneous interpretation of ‘public body’ threatens the ability of WTO Members to counteract trade-distorting subsidies provided through state-owned enterprises, favoring non-market economies at the expense of market economies.”).

While the Biden Administration has expressed support for the WTO and is pursuing reforms within the WTO with like-minded countries, the consensus system of the WTO basically limits the realistic ability of WTO Members to address the principal concerns flowing from the Chinese economic model,

Thus, the USTR 2021 report released today is not surprising in articulating working within WTO where possible but working outside of the WTO where needed.

Below is the Executive Summary of the Report (pages 2-4).

“In Part One of this report, we provide an assessment of China’s WTO membership, including the unique and very serious challenges that China’s state-led, non-market approach to the economy and trade continue to pose for the multilateral trading system. In Part Two, we review the effectiveness of the various strategies that have been pursued over the years to address the unique problems posed by China. In Part Three, we emphasize the critical need for new and more effective strategies – including taking actions outside the WTO where necessary – to address those problems. Finally, in Part Four, we catalogue the numerous problematic policies and practices that currently stem from China’s state-led, non-market approach to the economy and trade. (emphasis added)


“Part One explains that when China acceded to the WTO, it voluntarily agreed to embrace the WTO’s open, market-oriented approach and to embed it in China’s trading system and institutions. China also agreed to take on the obligations set forth in existing WTO rules, while also making numerous China-specific commitments. As we previously documented, and as remains true today, China’s record of compliance with these terms has been poor.

“After 20 years of WTO membership, China still embraces a state-led, non-market approach to the economy and trade, despite other WTO members’ expectations – and China’s own representations – that China would transform its economy and pursue the open, market-oriented policies endorsed by the WTO. In fact, China’s embrace of a state-led, non-market approach to the economy and trade has increased rather than decreased over time, and the mercantilism that it generates has harmed and disadvantaged U.S. companies and workers, often severely.

“China also has a long record of violating, disregarding and evading WTO rules to achieve its industrial policy objectives. In this report, as in our prior reports, we identify and explain numerous unfair, non-market and distortive trade policies and practices used by China in pursuit of its industrial policy objectives. We also describe how China has sought to frustrate WTO oversight mechanisms, such as through its poor record of adhering to its WTO transparency obligations.


“As we explain below in Part Two, for nearly two decades following China’s accession to the WTO, a variety of bilateral and multilateral efforts were pursued by the United States and other WTO members to address the unique challenges presented by China’s WTO membership. However, even though these efforts were persistent, they did not result in meaningful changes in China’s state-led, non-market approach to the economy and trade.

“For many years, the United States pursued a dual track approach in an effort to resolve the many concerns that have arisen in our trade relationship with China. One track involved using high-level bilateral dialogues, and the other track focused on enforcement at the WTO.

“The United States approached its bilateral dialogues with China in good faith and put a great deal of effort into them. These dialogues were intended to push China toward complying with and internalizing WTO rules and norms and making other market-oriented changes. However, they only achieved isolated, incremental progress. At times, the United States did secure broad commitments from China for fundamental shifts in the direction of Chinese policies and practices, but these commitments were unenforceable and China repeatedly failed to follow through on them. Over time, moreover, commitments from China became more difficult to secure.

“Meanwhile, at the WTO, the United States brought 27 cases against China, often in collaboration with like-minded WTO members. We secured victories in every case that was decided. Still, even when China changed the specific practices that we had challenged, it did not typically change the underlying policies, and meaningful reforms by China remained elusive.

“In 2017, the previous Administration launched an investigation into China’s acts, policies and practices relating to technology transfer, intellectual property and innovation under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. The findings made in this investigation led to substantial U.S. tariffs on imports from China as well as corresponding retaliation by China. Against this backdrop of rising tensions, in January 2020, the two sides signed what is commonly referred to as the ‘Phase One Agreement.’ This Agreement included commitments from China to improve market access for the agriculture and financial services sectors, along with commitments relating to intellectual property and technology transfer and a commitment by China to increase its purchases of U.S. goods and services.

“Many of the commitments in the Phase One Agreement reflected changes that China had already been planning or pursuing for its own benefit or that otherwise served China’s interests, such as the changes involving intellectual property protection and the opening up of more financial services sectors. Other commitments to which China agreed reflected a calculation, as it saw them as appeasing U.S. priorities of the prior Administration, as evidenced by the attention paid to the agriculture sector in the Phase One Agreement and the novel commitments relating to China’s purchases of U.S. goods and services ostensibly as a means to reduce the bilateral trade deficit.

“Given these dynamics, and given China’s interest in a more stable relationship with the United States, China followed through in implementing some provisions of the Phase One Agreement. At the same time, China has not yet implemented some of the more significant commitments that it made in the Phase One Agreement, such as commitments in the area of agricultural biotechnology and the required risk assessment that China is to conduct relating to the use of ractopamine in cattle and swine. China has also fallen far short of implementing its commitments to purchase U.S. goods and services in 2020 and 2021.

“The reality is that this Agreement did not meaningfully address the more fundamental concerns that the United States has with China’s state-led, non-market policies and practices and their harmful impact on the U.S. economy and U.S. workers and businesses. China’s government continues to employ a wide array of interventionist industrial policies and supporting measures, which provide substantial government guidance, massive financial resources and favorable regulatory support to Chinese industries across the economy, often in pursuit of specific targets for capacity and production levels and market shares. In furtherance of its industrial policy objectives, China has also limited market access for imported goods and services and restricted the ability of foreign manufacturers and services suppliers to do business in China. It has also used various, often illicit, means to secure foreign intellectual property and technology to further its industrial policy objectives.

“The principal beneficiaries of these non-market policies and practices are China’s state-owned and state-invested enterprises and numerous nominally private domestic companies that are attempting to move up the economic value chain in industries across the economy. The benefits that Chinese industries receive largely come at the expense of China’s trading partners and their workers and businesses. As a result, markets all over the world are less efficient than they should be, and the playing field is heavily skewed against foreign businesses that seek to compete against Chinese enterprises, whether in China, in the United States or globally.

“The industrial policies that flow from China’s non-market economic system have systematically distorted critical sectors of the global economy such as steel, aluminum, solar and fisheries, devastating markets in the United States and other countries. At the same time, as is their design, China’s industrial policies are increasingly responsible for displacing companies in new, emerging sectors of the global economy, as the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party powerfully intervene in these sectors on behalf of Chinese companies. Companies in economies disciplined by the market cannot effectively compete with both Chinese companies and the Chinese state.


“In Part Three, we explain that, in recent years, it became evident to the United States – and to an increasing number of U.S. trading partners − that new strategies were needed to deal with the many problems posed by China’s state-led, non-market approach to the economy and trade, including solutions independent of the WTO. We also emphasize that these strategies needed to be based on a realistic assessment of China’s economic and trade regime and need to be calibrated not only for the near-term but also for the longer term. Accordingly, as explained below, the United States is now pursuing a multi-faceted strategic approach that accounts for the current realities in the U.S.-China trade relationship and the many challenges that China poses for the United States and other trading partners, both now and likely in the future. (Emphasis added)

“The U.S. Trade Representative announced the initial steps of the United States’ strategic approach in October 2021. This approach includes several components, which we have begun to implement.

“First, the United States is continuing to pursue bilateral engagement with China and is seeking to find areas where some progress can be achieved. China is an important trading partner, and every avenue for obtaining real change in its economic and trade regime must be utilized. Currently, we are engaging China on the United States’ most fundamental concerns with China’s state-led, non-market approach to the economy and trade, which includes China’s industrial policies. At the same time, the United States is working to hold China accountable for its existing commitments, including under the Phase One Agreement. If China fully implements the Phase One Agreement, it will help establish a more solid foundation for bilateral engagement on more significant outstanding issues.

“Second, it is clear that domestic trade tools – including updated or new domestic trade tools reflecting today’s realities – will be necessary to secure a more level playing field for U.S. workers and businesses. The United States therefore is exploring how best to use and improve domestic trade tools to achieve that end.

“Finally, it is equally critical for the United States to work more intensely and broadly with allies and like-minded partners in order to build support for solutions to the many significant problems that China’s state-led, non-market approach to the economy and trade has created for the global trading system. This work is taking place in bilateral, regional and multilateral fora, including the WTO.


“Part Four discusses specific problematic Chinese policies and practices in more detail. These policies and practices are grouped into sections on non-tariff measures, intellectual property rights, agriculture, services and transparency.”

In Part Three of the Report, there is a section on “Changing Global Perspectives” which outlines the U.S. understanding of where trading partners are moving in terms of concerns with the Chinese economic model. The section (pages 20-22) is copied below.

“Over the last few years, as changes have taken place in how the United States and U.S. stakeholders view the United States’ trade relationship with China, it has become apparent that the views of other countries have also been evolving toward the U.S. view. More and more trading partners appear to accept that China’s state-led, non-market approach to the economy and trade has been severely harming their workers and businesses. While each trading partner is impacted differently by China, there is also a growing consensus that this situation will not change unless new strategies are pursued.

“While the WTO remains a strong focus for many of the United States’ trading partners, there is a growing awareness that it may be necessary to pursue some solutions outside the WTO in order to avoid the severe harm that will likely continue to result from China’s state-led, non-market economic and trade regime. For example, some of the United States’ trading partners are now exploring possible new domestic trade tools to address the challenges posed by China’s state-led trade regime. These and other like-minded trading partners have also begun working with the United States ― sometimes confidentially ― in pursuit of new joint strategies to address China’s harmful non-market policies and practices, including China’s increasing use of economic coercion. At the same time, still other trading partners appear to be replicating certain of China’s unfair trade practices, or at least accepting them as a result of China’s tactics to coerce or entice countries to acquiesce to its practices. Consequently, addressing these practices in China could have the additional benefit of dissuading these countries from following China’s example. (emphasis added)

“Meanwhile, many of China’s trading partners are increasingly skeptical of China’s rhetoric. For example, China often touts its strong commitment to win-win outcomes in international trade matters, but its actions plainly belie its words. Through state-led industrial plans like Made in China 2025, which targets 10 strategic emerging sectors, China pursues a zero-sum approach. It first seeks to develop and dominate its domestic markets. Once China develops, acquires or steals new technologies and Chinese enterprises become capable of producing the same quality products in those industries as the foreign competition, the state suppresses the foreign competition domestically and then supports Chinese enterprises as they “go out” and seek dominant positions in global markets. Based on the world’s past experiences with industries like steel, aluminum, solar panels and fisheries, a new wave of severe and persistent non-market excess capacity can be expected in industries like those targeted by Made in China 2025, to the detriment of China’s trading partners.

“It has also not gone unnoticed among China’s trading partners ― particularly the democratic market economies ― that China’s leadership appears confident in its state-led, non-market approach to the economy and trade and feels no need to conform to global norms. China’s leadership demonstrates confidence in its ability to quiet dissenting voices, as if China’s continued rise is inevitable and cannot be held back. Indeed, it has become increasingly evident that China’s leadership is seeking to establish new global norms that better reflect and support China’s interests, providing an attractive alternative for other authoritarian regimes around the world.

“China has also regularly used its economic clout in a coercive way if it perceives that a foreign company or a foreign country has spoken or acted in a way that undermines China’s economic and trade interests. This economic coercion can mute international objections to China’s non-market policies and practices, even when China flouts the WTO’s rules-based international trading system. In recent years, China has increasingly expanded its use of economic coercion to take on foreign governments whose policies or practices are perceived to undermine not only China’s economic and trade interests but also China’s political interests. China’s coercive economic measures have taken a variety of forms, including, for example, import restrictions, export restrictions, restrictions on bilateral investment, regulatory actions, state-led and state-encouraged boycotts, and travel bans. Many countries have been subjected to this economic coercion. One prominent example currently involves Australia, where China has taken formal and informal measures restricting imports of Australian products like meat, barley, wine, coal, cotton, logs and lobster, apparently because of various legitimate actions taken by the Australian government, such as calling for an independent investigation of the origins of the coronavirus pandemic and enacting a law that prohibits political contributions from foreign sources.

“In sum, the reality confronting the United States and other market economies ― especially the democratic market economies ― is not simply that China has a different economic system from ours. China plainly does not hold the same core values that we hold, and its state-led, non-market approach to the economy and trade conflicts in significant and harmful ways with our market-oriented approaches, to the detriment of our workers and businesses.”


It has been clear for some time that the trading system has been unable to address many of the major distortions caused by the state-led, non-market economy of a major country like China. While WTO reform may address some issues, it is unlikely that WTO reform will be achieved for years. The 20 year effort to complete negotiations on a fisheries subsidy agreement (still not completed) demonstrates just how broken the WTO negotiating function is and how protracted efforts at reform will likely be.

Efforts at plurilateral agreements open to all WTO Members are addressing a number of important issues, though not with regard to major distortions caused by state-led, non-market economies.

Bilateral and plurilateral agreements can be useful for the participants. However, the success of such agreements depends on the willingness of participants to honor commitments undertaken or the effectiveness of enforcement provisions in the agreements. The bilateral Phase I Agreement between the U.S. and China is comparable to China’s accession to the WTO in that many commitments undertaken have not been implemented and to date have proven largely unenforceable.

The road ahead for democratic, market economies is unclear. But the problems with WTO compatibility of the Chinese economic model and the challenges in achieving meaningful WTO reform will likely lead to a much larger role for non-WTO solutions in the future. That will of necessity reduce the relevance of the WTO over time.

February 10, 2022 release of ILO report and subsequent U.S. State Department press release on forced labor and other human rights issues in Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China

My last post from February 11th on forced labor and U.S. law to stop imports from such labor did not include reference to a report released by the International Labor Organization on February 10, 2022 and the U.S. Department of State media note on the note. See February 11, 2022:  Stopping imports made in whole or in part from forced labor — U.S. law and the looming challenge on goods made from cotton and polysilicon,

The ILO press release on the report can be found here. ILO releases the 2022 report of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, Press release, 10 February 2022,–en/index.htm

The State Department media note can be found here (U.S. Department of State, media note, On the Release of the International Labor Organization’s Committee of Experts Report, February 10, 2022, and is copied below.

“The Department of State welcomes the issuance today of a report by a committee of the International Labor Organization (ILO) calling on the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to review, repeal, and revise its laws and practices of employment discrimination against racial and religious minorities in Xinjiang.

“This report, produced by the ILO’s Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, expresses deep concern regarding the PRC’s policies and calls on the PRC government to take specific steps toward eliminating racial and religious discrimination in employment and occupation, and to amend national and regional policies utilizing vocational training and rehabilitation centers for ‘political re-education’ based on administrative detention.

“China joined the ILO in 1919 as one of the founding member states. The United States calls on the PRC to take the steps requested by the Committee of Experts.  We also reiterate our call for the PRC to end its genocide and crimes against humanity perpetrated against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang, as well as its use of these groups for forced labor in Xinjiang and beyond. The State Department is committed to working with our international partners and allies to end forced labor and strengthen international action against the ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang.

“The Committee’s report can be found here –—ed_norm/—relconf/documents/meetingdocument/wcms_836653.pdf .

“For more information on forced labor in the PRC’s Xinjiang Region, please see the linked July 2021 Fact Sheet on the topic:“.

The full title of the ILO report is International Labour Organization, Application of International
Labour Standards 2022, Report III (Part A), Report of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, International Labour Conference, 110th Session, 2022,—ed_norm/—relconf/documents/meetingdocument/wcms_836653.pdf. The volume is 870 pages in length and reviews compliance with various standards by individual countries. There are discussions on China at pages 431-433 (Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) (ratification: 1999)); 433-434 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182) (ratification: 2002)); 514-521 (Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111)(ratification: 2006)); and 683-689 (Employment Policy Convention, 1964 (No. 122) (ratification: 1997). It is the latter two sections that talk at length about claims made by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) on practices against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang Autonomous Region, the government of China’s response to the claims, and the concerns of the Committee of Experts with requested actions. For example, looking just at the last section, pages 683-685 outlines the claims by the ITUC on employment practices.

“In its observations of 2020 and 2021, the ITUC alleges that the Government of China has been engaging in a widespread and systematic programme involving the extensive use of forced labour of the Uyghur and other Turkic and/or Muslim minorities for agriculture and industrial activities throughout the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang), in violation of the right to freely chosen employment set out in Article 1(2) of the Convention. The ITUC maintains that some 13 million members of the ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang are targeted on the basis of their ethnicity and religion 684 Report of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations Employment policy and promotion with a goal of social control and assimilation of their culture and identity. According to the ITUC, the Government refers to the programme in a context of ‘poverty alleviation’, ‘vocational training’, ‘reeducation through labour’ and ‘de-extremification’.

“The ITUC submits that a key feature of the programme is the use of forced or compulsory labour in or around ‘internment’ or ‘re-education’ camps housing some 1.8 million Uyghur and other Turkic and/or Muslim peoples in the region, as well as in or around prisons and workplaces across Xinjiang and other parts of the country.

“The ITUC indicates that, beginning in 2017, the Government has expanded its internment programme significantly, with some 39 internment camps having almost tripled in size. The ITUC submits that, in 2018, Government officials began referring to the camps as ‘vocational education and training centres’ and that in March 2019, the Governor of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region described them as ‘boarding schools that provide job skills to trainees who are voluntarily admitted and allowed to leave the camps’. The ITUC indicates that life in ‘re-education centres’ or camps is characterized by extraordinary hardship, lack of freedom of movement, physical and psychological torture, compulsory vocational training and actual forced labour.

“The ITUC also refers to ‘centralized training centres’ that are no re-education camps but have
similar security features (e.g. high fences, security watchtowers and barbed wire) and provide similar
education programmes (legal regulations, Mandarin language courses, work discipline and military
drills). The ITUC adds that the re-education camps are central to an indoctrination programme focused
on separating and ‘cleansing’ ethnic and religious minorities from their culture, beliefs, and religion.
Reasons for internment may include persons having travelled abroad, applied for a passport,
communicated with people abroad or prayed regularly.

“The ITUC also alleges prison labour, mainly in cotton harvesting and the manufacture of textiles, apparel and footwear. It refers to research according to which, starting in 2017, the prison population of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities increased dramatically, accounting for 21 per cent of all arrests in China in 2017. Charges typically included ‘terrorism’, ‘separatism’ and ‘religious extremism’.

“Finally, the ITUC alleges that at least 80,000 Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities workers were transferred from Xinjiang to factories in Eastern and Central China as part of a ‘labour transfer’ scheme
under the name ‘Xinjiang Aid’. This scheme would allow companies to: (1) open a satellite factory in
Xinjiang or (2) hire Uyghur workers for their factories located outside this region. The ITUC alleges that
the workers who are forced to leave the Uyghur Region are given no choice and, if they refuse, are
threatened with detention or the detention of their family. Outside Xinjiang, these workers live and work
in segregation, are required to attend Mandarin classes and are prevented from practicing their culture
or religion. According to the ITUC, state security officials ensure continuous physical and virtual
surveillance. Workers lack of freedom of movement, remaining confined to dormitories and required to
use supervised transport to and from the factory. They are subject to impossible production
expectations and long working hours. The ITUC adds that, where wages are paid, they are often subject
to deductions that reduce the salary to almost nothing. ITUC further adds that, without these coercively
arranged transfers, Uyghurs would not find jobs outside Xinjiang, as their physical appearance would
trigger police investigations.

“According to the ITUC’s allegations, to facilitate the implementation of these schemes, the Government offers incentives and tax exemptions to enterprises that train and employ detainees; subsidies are granted to encourage Chinese-owned companies to invest in and build factories near or within the internment camps; and compensation is provided to companies that facilitate the transfer and employment of Uyghur workers outside the Uyghur Region.

“In its 2021 observations, the ITUC supplements these observations with information, including testimonies from the Xinjiang Victims Database, a publicly accessible database which as of 3 September
2021 had allegedly recorded the experience of some 35,236 ethnic minority members forcibly interned
by the Government since 2017.”

The Government of China provides its views that the claims are false in each case and provides a review of what its actions are intended to accomplish (pages 685-687). However, the Committee of Experts expresses major concerns and seeks additional action/information from China (687-689 copied below).

“The Committee takes due note of the ITUC allegations, the response and additional information provided by the Government and the various employment and vocational training policies as articulated
in various recent ‘white papers’ referred to by the Government in its report and other legal and policy
documents referred to by United Nations human rights experts.

“The Committee recalls that the Convention’s objective of promoting full employment does not require ratifying States to guarantee work for all who are available for and seeking work, nor does it imply that everyone must be in employment at all times (2020 General Survey on promoting employment and decent work in a changing landscape, paragraph 54). The Convention does, however, require ratifying States to promote freedom to choose one’s employment and occupation, as well as equal access to opportunities for training and general education to prepare for jobs, without discrimination on the basis of race, colour, national origin, religion or other grounds of discrimination covered under Convention No. 111 or other international labour standards such as the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (Disabled Persons) Convention, (No. 159).

“In this context, the Committee notes that training facilities that house the Uyghur population and other Turkic and Muslim minorities separate them from the mainstream educational and vocational training, vocational guidance and placement services available to all other groups in the region throughout the country at large. Such separation may lead to active labour market policies in China being designed and implemented in a manner that generates coercion in the choice of employment and has a discriminatory effect on ethnic and religious minorities. Photographs of the facilities, equipped with guard towers and tall surrounding walls topped with barbed wire further reinforce the observation of segregation. The Committee has observed before that some workers from ethnic minorities face challenges in seeking to engage in the occupation of their choice because of indirect discrimination. For example, biased approaches towards the traditional occupations engaged in by certain ethnic groups, which are often perceived as outdated, unproductive or environmentally harmful, continue to pose serious challenges to the enjoyment of equality of opportunity and treatment in respect of occupation (general observation on Convention No. 111, 2019). The Committee addresses other aspects of the particular system for vocational training and education aimed at the deradicalization of ethnic and religious minorities in its comment on the application of the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111).

“The Committee recalls that, while the Convention requires ratifying States to declare and pursue as a major goal an active policy designed to promote full, productive and freely chosen employment with the objective of stimulating economic growth and development and meeting manpower requirements, employment policy must also promote free choice of employment by enabling each worker to train for employment which can subsequently be freely chosen, in accordance with Article 1(2)(c) of the Convention.

“Article 1(2)(c) provides that the national employment policy shall aim to ensure that ‘there is freedom of choice of employment and the fullest possible opportunity for each worker to qualify for, and to use his skills and endowments in, a job for which he or she is well suited, irrespective of race, colour, sex, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin’. In its 2020 General Survey on promoting employment and decent work in a changing landscape, paragraphs 68–69, the Committee noted that ‘the objective of freely chosen employment consists of two elements. First, no person shall be compelled or forced to undertake work that has not been freely chosen or accepted or prevented from leaving work if he or she so wishes’. Second, all persons should have the opportunity to acquire qualifications and to use their skills and endowments free from any discrimination. Moreover, the Committee recalls that the prevention and prohibition of compulsory labour is a condition sine qua non of freedom of choice of employment (2020 General Survey, paragraph 70).

“The Committee notes the Government’s statement that the ITUC observations are based on individual statements and are unsubstantiated; however, it notes that the ITUC observations also append additional sources containing statistical data; references to first-hand testimonies, testimonies of eyewitnesses, family and relatives; research papers; and photographs of vocational training and education centres.

“The Committee also notes that, on 29 March 2021, a number of United Nations human rights experts (including Special Rapporteurs and thematic working groups mandated by the UN Human Rights Council) expressed serious concern with regard to the alleged detention and forced labour of Uyghur and other Turkic and/or Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. The UN experts indicate that Uyghur workers have been held in ‘re-education’ facilities, with many also forcibly transferred to work in factories in Xinjiang. They further indicate that Uyghur workers have allegedly been forcibly employed in low-skilled, labour-intensive industries, such as agribusiness, textile and garment, automotive and technological sectors.

“The Committee recognizes and welcomes the strong commitment of the Government to the eradication of poverty. However, it is the Committee’s firm view that poverty eradication and the realization of the right to work to that end encompasses not only job placement and job retention but also the conditions under which the Government executes such placement and retention. The Convention does not only require the Government to pursue full employment but also to ensure that its employment policies do not entail any direct or indirect discriminatory effect in relation to recruitment, conditions of work, opportunities for training and advancement, termination, or any other employment-related conditions, including discrimination in choice of occupation.

“The Committee is of the view that at the heart of the sustainable reduction of poverty lies the active enhancement of individual and collective capabilities, autonomy and agency that find their expression in the full recognition of the identity of ethnic minorities and their capability to freely and without any threat or fear choose rural or urban livelihoods and employment. The obligation under the Convention is not to guarantee job placement and retention for all individuals by any means available but to create the framework conditions for decent job creation and sustainable enterprises.

“The Committee takes due note of the view expressed in the Government’s report that ‘some forces recklessly sensationalize the so-called ‘forced labour’ issue in Xinjiang on various occasions’, adding that this is ‘nothing but a downright lie, a dirty trick with ulterior motives’. The Committee is bound to observe, however, that the employment situation of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in China provides numerous indications of coercive measures many of which arise from regulatory and policy documents.
The Government’s references to significant numbers of ‘surplus rural labour’ being ‘relocated’ to industrial and agricultural employment sites located inside and outside Xinjiang under ‘structured Employment policy and promotion conditions’ of ‘labour management’ in combination with a vocational training policy targeting deradicalization of ethnic and religious minorities and at least in part carried out in high-security and high-surveillance settings raise serious concerns as to the ability of ethnic and religious minorities to exercise freely chosen employment without discrimination. Various indicators suggest the presence of a ‘labour transfer policy’ using measures severely restricting the free choice of employment. These include government-led mobilization of rural households with local townships organizing transfers in accordance with labour export quotas; the relocation or transfer of workers under security escort; onsite management and retention of workers under strict surveillance; the threat of internment in vocational education and training centres if workers do not accept ‘government administration’; and
the inability of placed workers to freely change employers.

The Committee urges the Government to provide detailed updated information on the measures taken or envisaged to ensure that its national employment policy effectively promotes both productive and freely chosen employment, including free choice of occupation, and effectively prevents all forms of forced or compulsory labour. In addition, the Committee requests the Government to take immediate measures to ensure that the vocational training and education programmes that form part of its poverty alleviation activities focused in the Uyghur Autonomous Region are mainstreamed and delivered in publicly accessible institutions, so that all segments of the population may benefit from these services on an equal basis, with a view to enhancing their access to full, productive and freely chosen employment and decent work. Recalling that, under the Employment Promotion Law (2007) and the Vocational Education law (1996), workers have ‘the right to equal employment and to choose a job of their own initiative’ and to access vocational education and training, respectively, the Committee asks the Government to provide detailed information on the manner in which this right is effectively ensured, particularly for those belonging to the Uyghur minority and other Turkic and/or Muslim minorities. The Government is also requested to provide detailed information, including disaggregated statistical data, on the nature of the different vocational education and training courses offered, the types of courses in which Uyghur minorities have participated, and the numbers of participants in each course, as well as the impact of the education and training on their access to freely chosen and sustainable employment.

“Article 3 of the Convention. Consultation. The Committee requests the Government to indicate
the manner in which representatives of workers and employers organizations were consulted with
respect to the design, development, implementation, monitoring and review of the active labour
market measures being taken in the Uyghur Autonomous Region. In addition, and given the focus of
the active labour market measures on the Uyghur and other Turkic/Muslim minorities, the Committee
requests the Government to indicate the manner in which the representatives of these groups have
been consulted, as required under Article 3.

“The Committee is raising other matters in a request addressed directly to the Government.”

The ILO Report references a report from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. See United Nations, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Concluding observations on the combined fourteenth to seventeenth periodic reports of China (including Hong Kong, China and Macao, China), CERD/C/CHN/CO/14-17, 19 September 2018, pages 7-8 (paras.40-42, copied below),

Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region

“40. The Committee notes the statements delivered by the State party delegation concerning the non-discriminatory enjoyment of freedoms and rights in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. The Committee is, however, alarmed by:

“(a) Numerous reports of the detention of large numbers of ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, held incommunicado and often for long periods, without being charged or tried, under the pretext of countering religious extremism. The Committee regrets the lack of official data on how many people are in long-term detention or who have been forced to spend varying periods in political “re-education camps” for even non-threatening expressions of Muslim ethno-religious culture, such as a daily greeting. Estimates of the number of people detained range from tens of thousands to over a million. The Committee also notes that the delegation stated that vocational training centres exist for people who have committed minor offences without qualifying what that means;

“(b) Reports of mass surveillance disproportionately targeting ethnic Uighurs, such as frequent baseless police stops and the scanning of mobile phones at police checkpoint stations; additional reports have been received of the mandatory collection of extensive biometric data in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, including DNA samples and iris scans, of large groups of Uighur residents;

“(c) Reports that all residents of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region are required to hand over their travel documents to police and apply for permission to leave the country, and that permission may not come for years. This restriction particularly affects those who wish to travel for religious purposes;

“(d) Reports that many Uighurs who had left China have allegedly been returned to the country against their will. There are fears for the current safety of those returned to China against their will.

“While acknowledging the State party’s denials, the Committee takes note of reports that Uighur language education has been banned in schools in the Hotan (Hetian) prefecture in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (arts. 2 and 5).

“42. The Committee recommends that the State party:

(a) Halt the practice of detaining individuals who have not been lawfully charged, tried and convicted for a criminal offence in any extralegal detention facility;

(b) Immediately release individuals currently detained under these circumstances, and allow those wrongfully held to seek redress;

(c) Undertake prompt, thorough and impartial investigations into all allegations of racial, ethnic and ethno-religious profiling, holding those responsible accountable and providing effective remedies, including compensation and guarantees of non-repetition;

(d) Implement mandatory collection and analysis of data on the ethnicity of all individuals stopped by law enforcement, the reasons for and outcome of those stops, report publicly on the information collected at regular intervals and include it in its follow-up report;

(e) Ensure that all collection, retention and use of biometric data is regulated in law and in practice, is narrow in scope, transparent, necessary and proportionate to meeting a legitimate security goal, and is not based on any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin;

(f) Eliminate travel restrictions that disproportionately affect members of ethnic minorities;

(g) Disclose the current location and status of Uighur students, refugees and asylum seekers who returned to China pursuant to a demand made by the State party in the past five years;

(h) Provide the number of persons held against their will in all extralegal detention facilities in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in the past five years, together with the duration of their detention, the grounds for detention, the humanitarian conditions in the centres, the content of any training or political curriculum and activities, the rights that detainees have to challenge the illegality of their detention or appeal the detention, and any measures taken to ensure that their families are promptly notified of their detention.”

As China seems intent on pursuing its policies described above and in the other sections of the ILO Report against the Uyghurs and other minorities, there will remain increased global tensions including trade actions to address what others view as unacceptable actions towards the minorities.

Stopping imports made in whole or in part from forced labor — U.S. law and the looming challenge on goods made from cotton and polysilicon

In prior posts, I have reviewed the challenges to international trade from forced labor practices in a number of countries and actions by the United States in 2021 to increase the focus on forced labor in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. See December 19, 2021:  Forced labor and trade — U.S. Congress passes legislation to address China’s treatment of Uyghurs,; April 27, 2021:  WTO and forced labor in cotton — Commentary by Amb. Dennis Shea, former Deputy U.S. Trade Representative,; March 24, 2021:  When human rights violations create trade distortions — the case of China’s treatment of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang,; January 25, 2021:  Child labor and forced labor in cotton production — is there a current WTO mandate to identify and quantify the distortive effects?,; January 24, 2021:  Forced labor and child labor – a continued major distortion in international trade for some products,

U.S. legislation was signed into law on December 23, 2021, Pub. L 117-78, “To ensure that goods made with forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China do not enter the United States market, and for other purposes”. The legislation includes working with USMCA partners (Canada and Mexico) and developing a strategy for addressing imports with priority sectors including cotton, tomatoes and polysilicon. As reviewed in a Peterson Institute for International Economics policy paper,

“The Xinjiang economy is still peripheral, accounting for only 1.4 percent of China’s gross domestic product. However, it is a major producer of two products, cotton and polysilicon, that are key parts of global supply chains. Xinjiang accounts for nearly 20 percent of global cotton production, with
annual production greater than that of the entire United States.9 Its position in polysilicon—the material from which solar panels are built—is even more dominant, accounting for nearly half of global production.10 Its position in polysilicon stems not from a dominant position in the raw material (silicon
being among the most abundant minerals on Earth) but from the massive amounts of energy used in the refining process and Xinjiang’s low, albeit carbon intensive, energy costs.

“9 See the International Cotton Advisory Committee, (accessed on May 21, 2021).

“10 Dan Murtaugh, “Why It’s So Hard for the Solar Industry to Quit Xinjiang,” Bloomberg Green,
February 10, 2021,

PIIE Policy Brief, Cullen S. Hendrix and Marcus Noland, 21-14 Assessing Potential Economic Policy Responses to Genocide in Xinjiang at 5 (June 2021),

The complicating factor for U.S., Canadian, Mexican and other authorities attempting to prohibit imports of products made in part or in whole from forced labor is that multiple countries are involved in many value chains. Thus, while 85% of China’s cotton production comes from the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, China not only uses the cotton internally for producing products (clothing, towels, etc.) but also exports cotton and textile products to many countries for further manufacture and consumption or export.

For example, cotton is covered by Chapter 52 of the Harmonized System of tariff classifications. In 2020, according to data from the UN COMTRADE data base, China exported cotton products classified under HS Chapter 52 to Bangladesh ($1.69 billion), Vietnam ($1.5 billion), Philippines ($846 million), Nigeria ($815 million), Cambodia ($430 million), Hong Kong ($420 million), Pakistan ($369 million) and Indonesia ($298 million) among other countries. See Trend Economy, Annual International Trade Statistics by Country , China, Cotton, These countries, as well as China, utilize the cotton products covered by Chapter 52 for producing other interim and finished products covered by other HS Chapters. The products produced are consumed in country or exported. Looking at just one such chapter, Chapter 61, covering some clothing products, and looking at imports in 2021 into the United States of items listed as containing cotton in that Chapter, shows the following dollar values potentially involved (in large part for China and for some parts for other countries).

China$ 3,651,051,704
Vietnam$ 4,311,944,342
Bangladesh$ 1,880,676,205
Cambodia$ 1,536, 029,654
Indonesia$ 1,436,846,321
Pakistan$ 1,164,854,604
Philippines$ 193,641,125
Hong Kong$ 35,811,289
Nigeria$ 77,091
Subtotal$14,210,932,335 (57.74% of total)
All Countries$24,613,797,890

The individual 10-digit HTS categories covered above are shown in the enclosed data from the USITC data we for China for the years 2016-2021.


The same problems exist for polysilicon and solar products made from polysilicon. Indeed, actions were taken last summer in the U.S. banning such products from a particular company in China. See, e.g., New York Times, U.S. Bans Imports of Some Chinese Solar Materials Tied to Forced Labor, June 24, 2021 updated August 2, 2021, (“The White House announced steps on Thursday to crack down on forced labor in the supply chain for solar panels in the Chinese region of Xinjiang, including a ban on imports from a silicon producer there.”).

For both product groups, banning imports will present administrative challenges and will also pose challenges for purchasers looking for alternative sources of supply. It is critical for there to be adequate resources to implement the ban as well focus by purchasers on identifying alterative sources of supply.

The U.S.’s and other countries’ concerns with the Chinese practices involving the Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang Autonomous Region are serious as the claims of genocide make clear. The increased use of Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930 by the U.S. Administration and efforts at coordination with trading partners are important steps to accompany increased diplomatic engagement to address the human rights challenges in China that have now been well documented.

While human rights violations don’t always carry with them trade implications, that is not the case where forced labor is the issue and the labor is engaged in producing products or services. While China’s actions against the Uyghurs and other minorities are the focus of the recent legislation, forced labor is a much broader trade problem in fact as recognized in the U.S., in Europe and elsewhere.

The trade and investment restrictions flowing from censorship — a recent U.S. International Trade Commission Report and the implications for the ongoing Joint Statement Initiative on E-Commerce

Eighty-six WTO Members are engaged in the ongoing Joint Statement Initiative negotiations on e-commerce. See WTO, Joint Initiative on E-Commerce, (“As of January 2021, there are 86 WTO members participating in these discussions, accounting for over 90 per cent of global trade. As is the case for all the joint initiatives, participation in the e-commerce JI is open to all WTO members. The initiative is jointly co-convened by Ambassador George Mina (Australia), Ambassador YAMAZAKI Kazuyuki (Japan) and Ambassador Tan Hung Seng (Singapore).”). Among the 86 Members who are participating in the negotiations are China, Russia, Indonesia and Turkey as well as major developed countries from Europe, the U.S., Japan, Korea, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Not included in the list as of January last year were India and Vietnam. The lack of meaningful rules on e-commerce is a reflection of the challenges the WTO negotiating function has faced in moving forward with multilateral rules.

Reports from the WTO have been that the plurilateral negotiations on e-commerce have made good progress through the end of 2021. See WTO news release, E-commerce co-convenors welcome substantial progress in negotiations, 14 December 2021,; WTO Joint Statement Initiative on E-commerce, Statement by Ministers of Australia, Japan and Singapore, December 2021, The Joint Statement is copied below.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the digital economy’s importance, accelerated the digital
transformation and heightened the need for global rules governing digital trade. As Co-convenors of the
Joint Statement Initiative on Electronic Commerce, we are committed to responding to this challenge. This
initiative will update the WTO rulebook in an area of critical importance to the global economy.

“We recognise the importance of the digital economy in post-COVID-19 economic recovery. The digital
economy offers enormous opportunities for developing Members and least-developed country (LDC)
Members, including by lowering the costs for businesses, particularly MSMEs, to access and participate in
global markets. WTO rules and commitments on digital trade can help unlock these opportunities.

“In this context, we will continue to drive negotiations towards a high standard and commercially meaningful outcome building on existing WTO agreements and frameworks. We will continue to promote inclusiveness and encourage the participation of as many WTO Members as possible in the negotiations, which were launched in our January 2019 Ministerial statement.

“We welcome the substantial progress made to date in the negotiations. We have achieved good
convergence in negotiating groups on eight articles – online consumer protection; electronic signatures and authentication; unsolicited commercial electronic messages; open government data; electronic contracts; transparency1; paperless trading; and open internet access. The outcomes already achieved in these areas will deliver important benefits including boosting consumer confidence and supporting businesses trading online.

“In addition, we have seen the consolidation of text proposals in other areas, including on customs duties on electronic transmissions, cross-border data flows, data localisation, source code, electronic transactions frameworks, cybersecurity, and electronic invoicing, as well as advanced discussions on market access. We will intensify negotiations in these areas from early 2022. We note that provisions that enable and promote the flow of data are key to high standard and commercially meaningful outcome.

“Participants in the initiative support the continuation of the multilateral e-commerce moratorium in
fostering certainty and predictability for businesses. The co-convenors consider it crucial that the initiative
makes permanent among participants the practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic

“”In light of the strong progress that has been achieved to date, the co-convenors will arrange the JSI work programme to secure convergence on the majority of issues by the end of 2022. We will identify
opportunities throughout 2022 for Ministers to provide guidance on key issues in the negotiations.
We look forward to working with all participating Members as we intensify the negotiations and work
towards a successful conclusion.

“The Hon Dan Tehan MP, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Australia
“H.E. Mr HAYASHI Yoshimasa, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Japan
“H.E. Mr HAGIUDA Koichi, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Japan
“H.E. Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Trade and Industry, Singapore


“1 Subject to the final scope of provisions and architecture”

Absent from the topics being discussed (based on the joint statement) are rules around censorship, although some topics can indirectly affect censorship actions (localisation and free flow of data).

Censorship is a major problem for digital trade and service providers, a fact made clear by a recent study from the U.S. International Trade Commission in response to a request from the U.S. Senate Finance Committee. See U.S. International Trade Commission, Foreign Censorship, Part 1: Policies and Practices Affecting U.S. Businesses, Inv. No. 332-585, Publ. 5244 (December 2021), It is hard to understand how the U.S., EU countries and others can sign off on an e-commerce agreement that doesn’t address the enormous harmful trade effects from censorship.

Part of the Executive Summary of the USITC report (pages 7-13) is copied below and identifies the importance of addressing censorship practices. The countries focused on in the report are China, the Russian Federation, India, Indonesia, Turkey and Vietnam. However, as recognized in the report, censorship is practiced by many more WTO Members.

“Executive Summary

“This report identifies and describes various foreign government censorship policies and practices,
including examples that U.S. businesses consider impediments to trade and investment. It is the first of
two reports requested by the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance (Committee) in its letter to the U.S.
International Trade Commission (Commission) dated April 7, 2021. The Committee stated that censorship
and its impact on the flow of information and services are critical issues for the digital economy and
requested that this first report include detailed information on the following:

“1. Identification and descriptions of various foreign censorship practices, in particular any
examples that U.S. businesses consider to impede trade or investment in key foreign markets.
The description should include to the extent practicable:

“a. the evolution of censorship policies and practices over the past five years in key
foreign markets;

“b. any elements that entail extraterritorial censorship; and

:c. the roles of governmental and nongovernmental actors in implementation and
enforcement of the practices.

“In response to the Committee’s request, this report identifies and describes censorship and censorship enabling policies and practices and the evolution of these policies and practices over the past five years in
six key foreign markets: China (including Hong Kong), Russia, Turkey, Vietnam, India, and Indonesia. For
these key markets, the report also describes elements that entail extraterritorial censorship and the roles
of governmental and nongovernmental actors in implementation and enforcement of censorship policies
and practices.

“In preparing this report, the Commission relied on information provided by a review of relevant
literature, a public hearing, written submissions, interviews with representatives from industry,
academia, the U.S. government, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and publicly available data.
The Commission held a public hearing on July 1, 2021, and participants included representatives of
academic institutions, NGOs, and trade associations. The Commission also received written submissions
for that hearing from a similar cross section of interested parties.

“Defining Censorship

“Censorship can be defined in various ways. For the purposes of this investigation, based on the request
letter from the Committee to the Commission dated January 4, 2021, censorship is defined as the
prohibition or suppression of speech or other forms of communication. This report addresses foreign
government censorship policies and practices, including laws, regulations, and other measures that either
directly target the suppression of speech or may be used to enable or facilitate its suppression. For
purposes of this report, we refer to these measures generally as “censorship-related policies and
practices” or simply “policies and practices.” This investigation focuses on foreign government
censorship-related policies and practices that impede trade and investment by U.S. businesses in key
markets.1 Industries commonly subject to censorship include digital and non-digital media (such as
newspapers, journals, and magazines); producers and distributors of audiovisual content (such as movies
and online video, television, books, and music); and social media and internet search providers, as well as
computer services more generally. The broad trend toward online publication and communication in the
global media and audiovisual services sectors and the heavy reliance on digital distribution for the crossborder provision of news, information, and audiovisual content imply that foreign censorship of the flow of information over digital platforms is having a significant impact on the digital economy. Given this and consistent with the Committee’s request, this report focuses on censorship in the online environment.

“This report in chapter 1 briefly describes how international human rights law has sought to distinguish
between measures that are and are not censorship and whether an instance of censorship may represent
a legitimate exception to freedom of expression. For example, international human rights law considers
such factors as whether a law provides clear direction and is not vague or ambiguous. However, it is
beyond the scope of this report to determine whether a given law may be appropriate or inappropriate
under international human rights law or other legal frameworks.

“Key Markets Where Foreign Censorship Affects U.S. Businesses

“In response to the Committee’s request for information about foreign censorship policies and practices in key markets, the Commission identified six markets: China, Russia, Turkey, Vietnam, India, and Indonesia.

“These six key markets were selected because they meet two broad criteria. First, governments in these
markets have introduced a wide range of censorship policies and practices, in particular with respect to
digital content, that involve restrictions on firms, including U.S. businesses. Second, for the digital and
media services most likely affected by censorship, demand in each of these markets is large enough to
represent a significant market opportunity for U.S. firms. In identifying key markets, the Commission
considered a range of potential foreign censorship policies and practices, noting that these may affect
U.S. businesses either by restricting their existing access or limiting new access to a foreign market.

“While the Commission relied on a variety of sources to inform its identification of key markets, an
important starting point was information from Freedom House, a well-known human rights advocacy
NGO, and its annual Freedom on the Net reports, which provide internet freedom scores related to
obstacles to access, limits on content, and violations of internet user rights, as well as data on
governments’ use of nine ‘key internet controls’ in regulating online platforms, content, and users. To
assist in identifying the key markets with relevant censorship policies and practices, the Commission also
reviewed data on the incidence of internet shutdowns, government requests for moderation of content,
legal guarantees of freedom of expression, and the degree of freedom afforded the press in various
countries around the world. To identify markets where demand is large enough to represent a significant
market opportunity for U.S. businesses, the Commission looked at indicators of demand for digital media
and audiovisual content. These included demographic indicators of consumer demand such as population
and gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, as well as indicators of the size of a market’s digital
economy, including the percentage of the population with access to the internet and the United Nations
Conference on Trade and Development Readiness for Frontier Technologies Index, which assesses
countries’ rate of adoption of important internet technologies.

“Overview of Censorship-Related Policies and Practices

“To get a full picture of foreign government censorship regimes in the key markets, it is useful to
understand the ‘who,’ ‘what,’ and ‘how’ of these policies and practices, as well as their evolution, and
the concepts of extraterritoriality and self-censorship. Many different governmental agencies and actors
have a role in censorship-related policies and practices in the key markets—the ‘who’ of censorship.
Also, governments in the key markets often require the cooperation of nongovernmental actors, such as
U.S. internet companies, to carry out censorship, given the growing importance of the internet for
communication and speech.

“Governments in the key markets censor a wide variety of content—the ‘what’ of censorship. This
content includes political, social, and national security-related topics as well as internet tools that can be
used to circumvent censorship (such as virtual private networks). For example, based on an empirical
analysis conducted by researchers at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, 26
of 45 countries engaged in state-sponsored filtering of internet content through technical means in
2015–17 and before.2 In particular, all of the key markets engaged in “pervasive” or “substantial” filtering
of political content as well as other topics (figure ES.1).

“Governments in the key markets operationalize censorship—the “how” of censorship—through policies
and practices that can be broadly grouped into two categories: those that directly target speech for
suppression and those that can in some circumstances operate to enable government censorship.

“Government policies and practices in the first category include laws that prohibit particular categories of
speech, as well as the premarket review of audiovisual and other creative works by censors. They also
include, in the online environment, government policies and practices that shut down the internet, block
entire websites, filter access to particular content on sites, or make it more difficult to access websites
(e.g., throttling).

“By contrast, censorship-enabling policies and practices facilitate governments’ ability to suppress speech.
Such measures may include, for example, internet intermediary rules, data localization or local presence
requirements, and foreign investment and market access restrictions. However, whether such measures
should be considered censorship enabling depends on context and the end to which such measures are
used. As detailed in chapters 3 and 4, in the key markets various measures work together, or may work
together, to facilitate government censorship. For example, broad definitions of prohibited content are
often combined with short deadlines for internet companies to identify and takedown prohibited content
and substantial penalties for noncompliance. Or, for example, internet intermediaries are required to
keep data and personnel in the jurisdiction, which can make it easier for governments to ensure
compliance with content prohibitions. In addition, whether a policy or practice should be considered
direct censorship or censorship enabling can be difficult to determine. This is particularly the case in the
key markets where, for example, the same law may combine direct elements (such as banning specific
categories of content) with censorship-enabling elements (such as data localization and local presence
requirements). Table ES.1 provides examples of different types of censorship-related policies and
practices (both direct censorship and censorship enabling) in the key markets. It also highlights some of
the industries particularly affected by these policies and practices. (See chapters 3 and 4 for details of the
examples listed in table ES.1.

“The evolution of censorship policies and practices in the past five years in the key markets has largely
been driven by the growing importance of the internet. U.S. internet companies report ever-growing
numbers of government requests for the takedown of online content. Moreover, governments are using
multiple levers—from data and personnel localization requirements to threats of retaliation—to pressure
compliance with censorship policies. Technological developments, such as the growing reliance on
artificial intelligence by governments and internet companies to identify and suppress large quantities of
online content, also present substantial challenges.

“Foreign governments’ censorship policies and practices may be augmented by extraterritoriality and self-censorship. Extraterritorial censorship occurs when governments seek to suppress speech outside of
their borders. In some cases, a law or policy will expressly state that its prohibition on certain content
applies to companies or persons outside the jurisdiction. A recent example of this would be the Hong
Kong National Security Law, which criminalizes broad categories of offenses (including speech in favor of
Hong Kong independence) and states that it applies regardless of where the crime is committed or who
commits it. In other cases, which arise most notably in China, economic coercion is used to advance
censorship goals even when the targeted speech is legal in the jurisdiction where it occurred. A well- known example involves the Houston Rockets of the National Basketball Association (NBA), whose
general manager posted images on Twitter supportive of Hong Kong independence. The Chinese
government responded by, among other actions, stopping the broadcast of NBA games on Chinese state-owned television stations for more than a year.

“Self-censorship involves censoring or suppressing one’s own speech to avoid offending government
censors or to facilitate market access. It is reportedly present in all of the key markets. Moreover, self-censorship can also occur extraterritorially; for example, movie studios reportedly have removed images
from the master version of films, rather than just the China-specific version, that they believe may offend
the Chinese government. Another example is Bloomberg reportedly not publishing a follow-up story on
the wealth of Chinese officials in order to protect its financial markets terminal business in China.
Additionally, in Turkey, almost two-thirds of Turkish citizens responding to a survey in 2018 reported that
the fear of being jailed for posting political views or opinions on the internet contributed to self-censorship in the country.”


Developing multilateral rules at the WTO or plurilaterally through the Joint Statement Initiative to address e-commerce is of great importance to global trade and prosperity. Failure to come to grips with rules on censorship would greatly reduce the utility of an agreement and permit those who engage in widespread censorship to deprive trading partners of the benefits of an e-commerce agreement. And this is just a reflection of challenges on the trade front, ignoring human rights and other international concerns.

WTO Arbitration Report on China’s challenge to U.S. countervailing duty investigations — while retaliation is much smaller than China sought, core problems with original Appellate Body decision flags challenge to restoring the Dispute Settlement binding process

On January 26, 2022, an arbitration decision was issued on the level of retaliation China is entitled to take for the findings of the Appellate Body that the United States hadn’t brought its countervailing duty determinations on China into conformity with WTO obligations as construed by the Appellate Body. See UNITED STATES – COUNTERVAILING DUTY MEASURES ON CERTAIN PRODUCTS FROM CHINA, RECOURSE TO ARTICLE 22.6 OF THE DSU BY THE UNITED STATES, DECISION BY THE ARBITRATOR, WT/DS437/ARB,
26 January 2022. China sought retaliation rights of $2.4 billion/year. The U.S. had argued for a cap of $120 million/year. The arbitrator concluded retaliation rights were $645.121 million/year. Id at 12.

The original request for consultations was made on May 25, 2012 with a series of panel and Appellate Body reports issued between 2014 and 2019 (original dispute and Art. 21.5 proceedings). The original findings covered a range of issues including a string of issues relating to whether state-owned enterprises were public bodies. See summary of key findings, DS437, United States – Countervailing Duty Measures on Certain Products from China,

The press releases from China and the United States state their respective positions – with China claiming the U.S. violates its WTO obligations and needs to bring itself into compliance, and with the U.S. noting that the underlying decisions reflect the problems with the Appellate Body that the U.S. has long identified and point to the need for reform of both the rules and dispute settlement. See Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China, Press Release on the Issuance of the WTO Arbitration Award in the Dispute United States — Countervailing Duty Measures on Certain Products from China (Recourse to Article 22.6 of the DSU by the United States),; Statement from USTR Spokesperson Adam Hodge on the WTO Arbitration Award Announcement in United States – Countervailing Duty Measures on Certain Products from China, January 26, 2022, (“The deeply disappointing decision today by the WTO arbitrator reflects erroneous Appellate Body interpretations that damage the ability of WTO Members to defend our workers and businesses from China’s trade-distorting subsidies. Today’s decision reinforces the need to reform WTO rules and dispute settlement, which have been used to shield China’s non-market economic practices and undermine fair, market-oriented competition. The Biden Administration will continue to use all our tools to stand up for the interests of America’s workers,”). businesses, farmers and producers, and strengthen our middle class. 

There have been many who have written about the problems of the Appellate Body in its construction of the Subsidies Agreement. See, e.g., Cartland, Michael, Depayre, Gérard &Woznowski, Jan. “Is Something Going Wrong in the WTO Dispute Settlement?” Journal of World Trade 46, no. 5 (2012): 979–1016; Dukgeun Ahn, Why Reform is Needed: WTO ‘Public Body’ Jurisprudence, 12 Global Policy, Supplement 3 at 61-70 ( April 2021)(and articles referenced therein).

USTR Lighthizer during the Trump Administration released in 2020 USTR’s Report on the Appellate Body of the WTO reviewing in great detail the concerns with the operation of the dispute settlement system. The concern about the Appellate Body interpretations preventing the U.S. and other Members from addressing the distortions including subsidies flowing from the Chinese economic system was a major focus in discussing the problems on “public body”. The Biden Administration and Congress have similar ongoing concerns which requires revisions to both the scope of the subsidies agreement and a revamp of the dispute settlement system.

Because of the extent of analysis presented by USTR, below are copied pages 82 – 89 of the 2020 USTR report.

A. The Appellate Body’s Erroneous Interpretation of ‘Public Body’ Threatens the Ability of WTO Members to Counteract Trade-Distorting Subsidies Provided through SOEs, Undermining the Interests of All Market-Oriented Actors

“• The Appellate Body has adopted an erroneous interpretation of the term ‘public body’ that is not found in the agreed text and is not consistent with the ordinary meaning of that term.

“• The Appellate Body’s narrow interpretation favors non-market economies operating through SOEs over market economies and undermines the ability of WTO Members to counteract subsidies by non-market economies.

“The WTO agreements discipline certain subsidies provided ‘by a government or any public body,’ but the Appellate Body has adopted a narrow interpretation of public body that requires an entity to possess, exercise or be vested with government authority, in order for it to constitute a public body. That requirement is not found in the agreed text, nor is it consistent with the ordinary meaning of the term ‘public body.’ The Appellate Body’s narrow interpretation of public body fails to capture a potentially vast number of government-controlled entities, such as state-owned enterprises (SOEs), that are owned or controlled by foreign governments, and therefore undermines the ability of Members to counteract subsidies that are injuring their workers and businesses. The WTO was created by and for market economies, but the Appellate Body’s public body interpretation favors non-market economies at the expense of market economies and has given rise to confusion among WTO panels and WTO Members.

1. Interpreted Correctly, the Term “Public Body” Means Any Entity Controlled by the Government

“Article 1.1(a)(1) of the SCM Agreement provides, in relevant part, that ‘a subsidy shall be deemed to exist if … there is a financial contribution by a government or any public body within the territory of a Member (referred to in this Agreement as ‘government’).’

“The Subsidies Agreement does not define the term ‘public body,’ but definitions of the words ‘public’ and ‘body’ shed light on the ordinary meaning of the term ‘public body’ in Article 1.1(a)(1). By definition, the noun ‘body’ refers to a group of persons or an entity (as opposed to, for example, the ‘material frame’ of persons). This definition in the sense of ‘an aggregate of individuals’ is: ‘an artificial person created by legal authority; a corporation; an officially constituted organization, an assembly, an institution, a society.’196 Turning to the adjective ‘public,’ the relevant definition that pertains to a ‘body’ as a group of individuals is the first: ‘of or pertaining to the people as a whole; belonging to, affecting, or concerning the community or nation.’197

“Thus, the ordinary meaning of the composite term ‘public body’ according to dictionary definitions would be ‘an artificial person created by legal authority; a corporation; an officially constituted organization’ that is ‘of or pertaining to the people as a whole; belonging to, affecting, or concerning the community or nation.’ These definitions point towards ownership by the community as one meaning of the term ‘public body.’ If an entity ‘belongs to’ or is ‘of’ the community, it also follows that the community can make decisions for, or control, that entity.

“Contrary to the Appellate Body’s interpretation, nothing in these dictionary definitions restricts the meaning of the term ‘public body’ to an entity vested with, or exercising, government authority. Had the drafters of the SCM Agreement intended to convey that meaning, they might have chosen any number of other terms. For example, the drafters might have used ‘governmental body,’ ‘public agency,’ ‘governmental agency,’ or ‘governmental authority.’

“These terms would have, through their ordinary meaning, more clearly conveyed the sense of exercising governmental authority. That they were not chosen sheds light on the different concept captured by the term that was chosen, ‘public body.’

“The ordinary meaning of the terms of a treaty must be understood ‘in their context.’198 Reading the term ‘public body’ in context supports the conclusion that a ‘public body’ is an entity controlled by the government such that the government can use that entity’s resources as its own.

“In Article 1.1(a)(1) of the SCM Agreement, the term ‘public body’ is part of the disjunctive phrase ‘by a government or any public body within the territory of a Member.’ The SCM Agreement thus uses two different terms – ‘a government’ on the one hand and ‘any public body’ on the other hand – to identify the two types of entities that can provide a financial contribution. As a contextual matter, the use of the distinct terms ‘a government’ and ‘any public body’ together this way indicates that the terms have distinct and different meanings.

“Treaty interpretation should give meaning and effect to all terms of a treaty. As the Appellate Body has recognized, provisions of the WTO Agreement should not be interpreted in such a manner that whole clauses or paragraphs of a treaty would be reduced to redundancy or inutility.199 Accordingly, the term ‘public body’ should not be interpreted in a manner that would render it redundant with the word ‘government.’

“The term ‘government,’ as the panel in US – Anti-Dumping and Countervailing Duties (China) found, means, among other things: ‘The governing power in a State; the body or successive bodies of people governing a State; the State as an agent; an administration, a ministry.’200 In Canada – Dairy, the Appellate Body explained that ‘[t]he essence of ‘government’ is . . . that it enjoys the effective power to ‘regulate’, ‘control’ or ‘supervise’ individuals, or otherwise ‘restrain’ their conduct, through the exercise of lawful authority.’201 The Appellate Body further explained that a ‘‘government agency’ is, in our view, an entity which exercises powers vested in it by a ‘government’ for the purpose of performing functions of a ‘governmental’ character, that is, to ‘regulate’, ‘restrain’, ‘supervise’ or ‘control’ the conduct of private citizens.’202

“The term ‘public body,’ therefore, should be interpreted as meaning something other than an entity that performs ‘functions of a ‘governmental’ character, that is, to ‘regulate’, ‘restrain’, ‘supervise’ or ‘control’ the conduct of private citizens.’203 Otherwise, a ‘public body’ is ‘a government,’ or a part of ‘a government,’ and there is no reason for the term ‘public body’ to have been included in Article 1.1(a)(1) of the SCM Agreement.

“In seeking to understand the term ‘public body’ in its context, it is also important to recall that the SCM Agreement is identifying those entities that may make ‘financial contributions.’ Those financial contributions are one part of a definition of ‘subsidy,’ and those subsidies are granted or maintained by WTO Members. A WTO Member can make the financial contribution underlying the subsidy directly through its ‘government’ (narrowly understood). However, it also can make that financial contribution through entities that it controls.

“Article 1.1(a)(1) of the SCM Agreement identifies a variety of actions that constitute financial contributions, including ‘a direct transfer of funds (e.g. grants, loans, and equity infusion), potential direct transfers of funds or liabilities (e.g. loan guarantees),’ foregoing or not collecting ‘government revenue,’ ‘provid[ing] goods or services other than general infrastructure, or purchas[ing] goods,’ and ‘mak[ing] payments to a funding mechanism.’ The ordinary meaning of a ‘financial contribution’ suggested by this list of actions is to convey value. In this ordinary sense, entities controlled by the government can convey value just as the government can, and the value conveyed can be precisely the same as that conveyed by the government.

“Consider, for example, a ‘direct transfer of funds’ by a government to a recipient in the form of a grant. Conveying value in this way is plainly a ‘financial contribution’ within the meaning of the SCM Agreement. If the government formed and controlled a legal entity (for example, a corporation whose shares are all owned by the government), and the entity provided the same grant to a recipient, the same financial contribution has occurred: the government has conveyed value. Whether the funds are provided directly by the government or by an entity controlled by the community through its government, it is a Member’s funds that are being used to make the financial contribution.

“There is no evident reason for the first transaction to fall within the scope of Article 1.1(a)(1) of the SCM Agreement and the second to fall outside the scope. Nor would the term ‘financial contribution’ suggest that a distinction should be drawn between those transactions based on whether the entity or corporation is ‘vested with or exercising governmental authority.’ Rather, the context supplied by ‘financial contribution’ suggests a different common concept between ‘government’ and ‘public body’ than that discerned by the Appellate Body. If a ‘financial contribution’ means to convey something of value, the concept sought to be captured by the SCM Agreement term is the use by a government of its resources, or resources it controls, to convey value to economic actors.

2. The Appellate Body Has Interpreted the Term ‘Public Body’ Incorrectly

“In US – Anti-Dumping and Countervailing Duties (China) in 2011 and US – Carbon Steel (India) in 2014, the Appellate Body interpreted the term ‘public body’ in Article 1.1(a)(1) of the SCM Agreement incorrectly. The key issue before the Appellate Body in these disputes was whether a wholly or majority government-owned SOE is a ‘public body,’ such that WTO Members can take action to counteract any unfair subsidies the SOEs provide. The Appellate Body recognized that, based on its ordinary meaning, the term ‘public body’ encompassed a ‘rather broad range of potential meanings.’ Nonetheless, the Appellate Body set out a very limited interpretation of the term, concluding that a ‘public body’ ‘must be an entity that possesses, exercises or is vested with governmental authority,’ including because the entity has ‘the effective power to regulate, control or supervise individuals, or otherwise restrain their conduct, through the exercise of lawful authority.’204 Under the Appellate Body’s interpretation, even where a government owns or controls an entity, that would not be sufficient to hold the government responsible for any injurious subsidies it provides.

“The Appellate Body’s ‘government authority’ test significantly limits the ability of governments to effectively combat unfairly subsidized imports and is nowhere reflected in the text of the SCM Agreement. If an entity has no regulatory or supervisory authority, but is nonetheless controlled by the government such that the government can use the entity’s resources as its own – making any transfer of economic resources by that entity a conveyance of the government’s own resources – it would be anomalous to conclude that the financial contribution cannot be deemed a subsidy under Article 1.1(a)(1). On the other hand, if an entity has the power to ‘regulate’ individuals or ‘otherwise restrain their conduct,’ but not the power to provide financial contributions of government resources, its regulatory powers are not relevant to the SCM Agreement. The Appellate Body’s interpretation therefore does not reflect the structure of either Article 1.1(a)(1) or of the SCM Agreement, and the failure of this interpretation to capture a
potentially vast number of government-controlled entities undermines the disciplines of the SCM Agreement.

“The Appellate Body’s interpretation stands in contrast to the approach taken by several WTO panels that interpreted the term ‘public body’ to be an entity controlled by the government. In Korea – Commercial Vessels, for example, the panel concluded that ‘an entity will constitute a ‘public body’ if it is controlled by the government (or other public bodies).’205 In reaching this conclusion, that panel rejected some of the very same arguments China advanced before the panel and the Appellate Body in US – Anti-Dumping and Countervailing Duties (China).

“In EC and certain member States – Large Civil Aircraft, the panel, addressing the status of a government-owned financial institution, explained that, ‘at the time of its 1992 investment in Aerospatiale, Credit Lyonnais was controlled by the French government and was a ‘public body’ for purposes of Article 1.1(a)(1) of the SCM Agreement.’206 Accordingly, the capital contribution made by Credit Lyonnais to Aerospatiale constituted a financial contribution by a public body.207

“In US – Anti-Dumping and Countervailing Duties (China), the panel concluded that ‘a ‘public body’, as that term is used in Article 1.1 of the SCM Agreement, is any entity controlled by a government.’ As noted above, however, in reversing the Panel, the Appellate Body adopted a narrow definition of a ‘public body.’

“During the meeting of the WTO Dispute Settlement Body at which the panel and Appellate Body reports in US – Anti-Dumping and Countervailing Duties (China) were adopted, seven WTO Members (Mexico, Turkey, the European Union, Canada, Australia, Japan and Argentina) joined the United States in raising concerns about the Appellate Body’s interpretation.208

“Commentators have also criticized the Appellate Body’s interpretation. For example, in an article in the Journal of World Trade, Michael Cartland, Gérard Depayre, and Jan Woznowski – each of whom participated in the Negotiating Group on subsidies and countervailing measures in the Uruguay Round – present a detailed discussion of the Appellate Body report in US – Anti-Dumping and Countervailing Duties (China) and raise a host of concerns with the Appellate Body’s interpretation of the term ‘public body,’ calling the analysis ‘internally contradictory’ and ‘disingenuous.’209

3. The Appellate Body’s Non-Textual Interpretation Has Created Significant Uncertainty and Led Panels to Reach Absurd Results

“In US – Anti-Dumping and Countervailing Duties (China), the Appellate Body left open the possibility that ‘meaningful control’ over an entity could be sufficient to show that the entity ‘possesses, exercises or is vested with governmental authority,’ and in US – Carbon Steel (India), the Appellate Body appeared to confirm that an SOE’s authority over government resources could support a public body finding.

“However, the Appellate Body’s non-textual interpretation has created significant uncertainty as to the precise scope of Article 1.1(a)(1), and recent attempts by panels to apply the so-called ‘government authority’ test have only exacerbated the problem, confirming the fundamental errors in the Appellate Body’s approach.

“The panel’s findings in US – Pipes & Tubes CVD (Turkey), for example, illustrate the hazard
introduced by the Appellate Body’s approach to public body in US – Carbon Steel (India), and in
particular a suggestion in that report that there must be a demonstration that the government ‘in
fact exercised control over the [entity] and its conduct.’210 Citing to this report, the panel in Pipes & Tubes found that the ability of the government to intervene in an entity’s critical operations and key decisions was not relevant to a public body determination, and required evidence that the government had actually exercised that control with respect to the subsidization in question. Similarly, the panel found that the existence of commercial conduct could preclude a finding that an entity is a ‘public body,’ because it could reflect the absence of a governmental function on the part of the entity and therefore a lack of governmental authority.

“As the United States has explained, properly interpreted, the issue under Article 1.1(a)(1) is not whether the nature of the behavior or the conduct of the entity is governmental. Rather, the question is whether the entity engaging in the conduct is governmental or pertaining or belonging to the people, i.e., whether the entity is ‘a government or any public body.’ If the entity is governmental, or public, all of its activities are attributable to the government in question. Were this not the case, a government could shield its activities from the disciplines of the SCM Agreement simply by setting up an SOE and allowing it to engage in some commercial conduct, even where there is evidence that the government has the ability to intervene and control the entity whenever it chooses. This cannot be the case.

“If a government undertakes the activities described in Article 1.1(a)(1), there is a conveyance of value from a WTO Member to a recipient. There is an equivalent conveyance when there is an entity whose resources the WTO Member can control and use, and the entity engages in the same activities. The interpretation set out by the Appellate Body, however, allows WTO Members to evade their obligations under the SCM Agreement simply by establishing an entity that is private in form, but not in substance.

“The interpretation therefore significantly restricts the ability of WTO Members to counteract trade-distorting subsidies provided through SOEs, posing a significant threat to the interests of all market-oriented actors.

“The interpretation also fails to maintain the textual distinction in Article 1.1(a)(1) between a ‘public body’ and a ‘private body.’ Contrary to the panel’s application of the Appellate Body’s standard in US – Pipes & Tubes CVD (Turkey), focus on the specific conduct of an entity would be relevant when examining whether there was government entrustment or direction of a private body under Article 1.1(a)(1)(iv) of the SCM Agreement. That is, a private body may provide a subsidy if the government entrusts or direct the private body ‘to carry out one or more of the functions illustrated in (i) to (iii).’ The panel’s approach demonstrates the uncertainty introduced by the Appellate Body’s interpretation, which risks conflating the public body analysis with that of government entrustment and direction of a private entity, and renders the term ‘public body’ effectively meaningless.

4. The Appellate Body Has Continued Its Incorrect Approach to ‘Public Body” in a Recent Appellate Report concerning the Imposition by the United States of Countervailing Duties on Subsidized Imports from China

“Although the Appellate Body recently had an opportunity to correct its flawed approach, it did not do so and, instead, stuck with an approach that has no basis in the text of the Subsidies Agreement. In US – Countervailing Measures (China) (21.5), all three members of the Division on appeal rejected China’s extremely narrow definition of ‘public body.’ However, two members of the Division reiterated the Appellate Body’s flawed approach. The third member dissented on this point, stating that ‘the majority has repeated an unclear and inaccurate statement of the criteria for determining whether an entity is a public body, and [the dissenting member] disagree[d] with the majority’s implication that a clearer articulation of the criteria is neither warranted nor necessary.’211

“The dissent continued that ‘the continuing lack of clarity as to what is a ‘public body’ represents an undue emphasis on ‘precedent’, which has locked in a flawed interpretation that has grown more confusing with each iteration, as litigants and Appellate Body Divisions repeated the original flaw while trying to navigate around it.’212

“The ‘original mistake’, as the dissent put it,213 was the Appellate Body’s attempt, in US – Anti-Dumping and Countervailing Duties (China) (DS379), to define the term ‘public body’ as ‘an entity that possesses, exercises or is vested with governmental authority,’ including because the entity has ‘the effective power to regulate, control or supervise individuals, or otherwise restrain their conduct, through the exercise of lawful authority.”214 Under the Appellate Body’s interpretation, even where a government owns or controls an entity, that would not be sufficient to hold the government responsible for any injurious subsidies the entity provides.

5. The Appellate Body’s Interpretation Limits the Ability of Investigating Authorities to Address Unfairly Subsidized Imports

“The Appellate Body’s ‘governmental authority’ test significantly limits the ability of governments to combat unfairly subsidized imports. The Appellate Body’s approach is nowhere reflected in the text of the Subsidies Agreement. If an entity has no regulatory or supervisory authority, but is nonetheless controlled by the government – making any transfer of economic resources by that entity a conveyance of the government’s own resources – it would make no sense to conclude that this transfer of public resources is not a financial contribution under Article 1.1(a)(1).

“On the other hand, if an entity has the power to ‘regulate’ individuals or ‘otherwise restrain their conduct,’ but not the power to provide financial contributions of government resources, its regulatory powers are not relevant to the Subsidies Agreement. The Appellate Body’s interpretation therefore does not reflect the structure of either Article 1.1(a)(1) or of the Subsidies Agreement.

“The failure of the Appellate Body’s interpretation to capture a potentially vast number of SOEs and other entities that are owned or controlled by foreign governments undermines the ability of Members to effectively counteract subsidies that are injuring their workers and businesses. The WTO was created by and for market economies, but the Appellate Body’s public body interpretation favors non-market economies at the expense of market economies.

“195 For example, this Report does not discuss the dispute US – Continued Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act Of 2000, in which the Appellate Body’s interpretation of the Subsidies Agreement in effect created a new category of prohibited subsidies that was neither negotiated nor agreed to by WTO Members; or other examples, such as US – Gambling, US – Cotton, US – FSC.

“196 The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary at 253 (1993).

“197 Id. at 253.

“198 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, Article 31.

“199 US – Offset Act (Byrd Amendment) (AB), para. 271 (2003). See also US – Gasoline (AB) at p. 23 (1996).

“200 US – Anti-Dumping and Countervailing Duties (China) (Panel), para. 8.57 (citing Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, L. Brown (ed.) (Claredon Press, 1993), Vol. I, p. 1123) (2011).

“201 Canada – Dairy (AB), para. 97 (1999).

“202 Id.

“203 Id.

“204 US – Anti-Dumping and Countervailing Duties (China) (AB), para. 290 (2011) (citing Canada – Dairy (AB), para. 97).

204 US – Anti-Dumping and Countervailing Duties (China) (AB), para. 290 (2011) (citing Canada – Dairy (AB), para. 97).

“205 Korea – Commercial Vessels (Panel), para. 7.50 (2005). See also id., paras. 7.172, 7.353, and 7.356 (2005)(finding that the Korean Development Bank and the Industrial Bank of Korea were public bodies because they were totally, or near totally, owned by the Government of Korea).

“206 EC – Large Civil Aircraft (Panel), para. 7.1359 (2011).

“207 Id.

“208 See Dispute Settlement Body, Minutes of the Meeting Held on March 25 2011, WT/DSB/M/294, paras. 103-127. See also Joint Statement of the Trilateral Meeting of the Trade Ministers of Japan, the United States and the European Union, para. 6 (January 14, 2020) (‘The Ministers observed that many subsidies are granted through State Enterprises and discussed the importance of ensuring that these subsidizing entities are captured by the term ‘public body.’ The Ministers agreed that the interpretation of ‘public body’ by the WTO Appellate Body in several reports undermines the effectiveness of WTO subsidy rules. To determine that an entity is a public body, it is not necessary to find that the entity “possesses, exercises or is vested with governmental authority.’).

“209 Cartland, Michael, Depayre, Gérard &Woznowski, Jan. “Is Something Going Wrong in the WTO Dispute Settlement?” Journal of World Trade 46, no. 5 (2012): 979–1016, at 996.

“210 US – Carbon Steel (India) (AB), para. 4.37 (2014) (first emphasis in original, second emphasis added).

“211 US – Countervailing Measures (China) (Article 21.5) (AB), para. 5.243 (2015) (separate opinion of one Division member).

“212 Id. at para. 5.244.

“213 Id. at para. 5.245.

“214 US – Anti-Dumping and Countervailing Duties (China) (AB), para. 2.90 (2015) (citing Canada – Dairy (AB), para. 97).’195 For example, this Report does not discuss the dispute US – Continued Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act Of 2000, in which the Appellate Body’s interpretation of the Subsidies Agreement in effect created a new category of prohibited subsidies that was neither negotiated nor agreed to by WTO Members; or other examples, such as US – Gambling, US – Cotton, US – FSC.”196 The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary at 253 (1993).’197 Id. at 253.”


In prior posts I have reviewed the challenges for the relevance of the WTO if Members don’t work on convergence of economic systems versus coexistence. That China’s system is at odds with market economy principles has raised concerns in the U.S., EU, Japan, Canada, Australia and other WTO Members. The Appellate Body has compounded the problems for market economies in dealing with state-driven economies (non-market economies) by permitting a wide array of subsidy practices to be not addressable through the narrow interpretation of public body.

Such erroneous interpretations and the inability to achieve correction through negotiations have led to shutting down of the Appellate Body and have exacerbated the inability of Members to get balanced rules negotiated. A multilateral trading system which doesn’t achieve a level trading environment in fact cannot survive as the basis for global engagement.

While in Geneva there is much talk about reform of both the rules and the dispute settlement system, the path forward to achieving balance in fact is hard to discern.

The European Union requests consultations with China at the WTO for restrictions on Lithuanian goods imposed by China

In a post on January 7, 2022, I reviewed the bullying and coercion being pursued by China against goods from Lithuania and the pressure on companies to stop using Lithuanian components. See January 7, 2022:  China’s “bullying” of Lithuania — a repeating story inconsistent with WTO rules, China’s actions followed actions by Lithuania to improve relations with Taiwan.

Today, January 27, 2022, the European Union filed a request for consultations at the WTO with China on the restrictions on trade with Lithuania and the efforts to restrict other countries from using Lithuanian components in their products. The request for consultations is embedded below.


The background section of the request for consultations reviews the myriad actions being taken to deprive Lithuanian and other goods including parts from Lithuania from accessing China’s market and restrictions on goods going to Lithuania.

“1. Background to the dispute

“Beginning in or around the final quarter of 2021, importers of products originating in Lithuania
and/or transiting through Lithuanian ports and/or with some other link to Lithuania began
encountering restrictions on securing customs clearance for their goods to enter Chinese territory.
Those restrictions include in particular: (i) error messages on the IT systems used to input data
necessary to secure customs clearance from the Chinese customs authorities; (ii) containers being
blocked in Chinese ports pending customs clearance; (iii) failures on the part of the Chinese
customs authorities to process requests for customs clearance in due time or at all. Those
restrictions are novel, numerous, recurrent, persisting and strongly correlated in temporal and
substantive terms, as well as in terms of the provenance of the goods.

“Commencing in or around the final quarter of 2021, entities established in Lithuania began
encountering difficulties relating to goods due to be exported from China to Lithuania. Those difficulties include failures on the part of the Chinese customs authorities to process requests for customs clearance for export in due time, or at all. Those restrictions have similar characteristics.

“Since August 2021, there have similarly been reports of entities established in Lithuania encountering difficulties in obtaining financial services from Chinese entities. Beginning in or around the final quarter of 2021, there have similarly been reports of shipments of products covered by SPS certificates issued by Lithuanian authorities being refused customs clearance by Chinese customs authorities.

“2. The measures at issue

“The measures at issue include the adoption, maintenance and application through its actions or omissions, in law and in fact, by China, of:

“import bans or import restrictions on the products at issue, from the EU;

“export bans or export restrictions on the products at issue from China to the EU;

“restrictions or prohibitions on the supply of services from the EU or by a service supplier from the EU in the territory of China or in respect of EU consumers of services provided by Chinese service suppliers.

“The means through which China imposes and administers these measures operate collectively but also separately, and affect the importation or exportation of goods or the supply of services from or to Lithuania, or showing a link to Lithuania for example through the presence of Lithuanian components.

“These measures predominantly concern goods or services from or destined for Lithuania or linked in various ways to Lithuania, but also have an effect on supply chains throughout the EU.

“The above-described complex of measures are inter-linked and show a targeted prohibition or restriction relating to trade in goods or services from or to Lithuania or linked to Lithuania which is intended to be generally applicable.

“These measures are attributable to China which, through actions of the Government, and/or through measures designed, promulgated, or applied by entities (including local government bodies, non-governmental bodies and state-owned enterprises) in Chinese territory acting as, under the authority of, or in concert with the Government, has encouraged, incentivised or otherwise instigated a coordinated policy designed to restrict trade from and with the EU, and more specifically, Lithuania, in a manner that is inconsistent with the terms of the covered agreements.

“In particular, the acts or omissions of the General Administration of Customs China resulting in the failure to take administrative actions or decisions necessary for customs clearance, has the effect of prohibiting or restricting importation.

“China also grants less favourable treatment for transit for products with a link to Lithuania as described above.

“Furthermore, it appears that Chinese State Trading Enterprises are not acting in conformity with the principle of non-discriminatory treatment in their purchases or sales involving either imports or exports from the EU with a link to Lithuania as described above.

“China arbitrarily or unjustifiably discriminates between the EU and other Members where identical or similar conditions prevail, including between China’s own territory and that of the EU, in applying sanitary and phytosanitary measures, and applies sanitary and phytosanitary measures in a manner which constitutes a disguised restriction on international trade, when goods with a link to Lithuania are involved.

“Moreover, China has put in place restrictions or treatment less favourable than that accorded to service suppliers from other Members or domestic service suppliers, in relation to the supply of services from the EU, by a service supplier from the EU in the territory of China, and as regards EU service consumers seeking services from Chinese service suppliers, when those services, suppliers or consumers had a link to Lithuania.”

The EU press release of today’s date ( on the matter is copied below.

“European Commission
“Directorate-General for Trade
“Press release
“Brussels, 27 January 2022
“EU refers China to WTO following its trade restrictions on Lithuania

“The EU has today launched a case at the World Trade Organization (WTO) against the People’s Republic of China over its discriminatory trade practices against Lithuania, which are also hitting other exports from the EU’s Single Market. These actions, which appear to be discriminatory and illegal under WTO rules, are harming exporters both in Lithuania and elsewhere in the EU, as they also target products with Lithuanian content exported from other EU countries. As attempts to resolve this bilaterally have failed, the EU has resorted to initiating dispute settlement proceedings against China. The WTO consultations initiated today are the first step in this process.

“Executive Vice-President and Commissioner for Trade Valdis Dombrovskis said: ‘Launching a WTO case is not a step we take lightly. However, after repeated failed attempts to resolve the issue bilaterally, we see no other way forward than to request WTO dispute settlement consultations with China. The EU is determined to act as one and act fast against measures in breach of WTO rules, which threaten the integrity of our Single Market. We are in parallel pursuing our diplomatic efforts to deescalate the situation.’

“Over the past weeks, the European Commission has built up evidence of the various types of Chinese restrictions. These include a refusal to clear Lithuanian goods through customs, rejection of import applications from Lithuania, and pressuring EU companies operating out of other EU Member States to remove Lithuanian inputs from their supply chains when exporting to China.

“To deal with such cases in future, the Commission is strengthening its toolbox of autonomous measures. Last month, the Commission adopted a proposal for an Anti-Coercion Instrument, which would give the EU more possibilities to react in the event of economic coercion. The proposal is currently being considered by the European Parliament and the Council of the EU.


“From December 2021, and without informing the EU or Lithuanian authorities, China began to heavily restrict or de facto block imports from and exports to Lithuania, or linked to Lithuania. The Commission has repeatedly raised the matter with the Chinese authorities.

“Next steps

“The first stage under WTO dispute settlement procedures is the ‘request for consultations’, under which the EU formally asks China for more information on its measures with a view to reaching a satisfactory solution. Should these consultations not lead to a positive outcome within 60 days, the EU may request the establishment of a panel to rule on the matter.”

As noted in my prior post, the United States has come out in support of Lithuania in comments from the Biden Administration. One can expect many WTO Members to seek to join the consultations supporting EU concerns. China’s use of trade restrictions and coercion in response to actions by trading partners it disagrees with has been a major problem for various countries. Actions against Australia reviewed in a prior post are just one other example. See December 22, 2020:  China’s trade war with Australia – unwarranted and at odds with China’s portrayal of itself as a strong supporter of the WTO,

As the EC press release makes clear, the EU is considering additional tools to broaden its capabilities to respond to coercive economic actions by trading partners. See Brussels, 8.12.2021, COM(2021) 775 final
on the protection of the Union and its Member States from economic coercion by third countries, As noted the proposed regulation is awaiting action by the European Council and European Parliament. The proposal is embedded below.


While major WTO Members like the EU and the U.S. can resort to or are working to have the internal authority to resort to unilateral actions to address coercion, the same is not true for most trading partners when facing such actions from countries like China. And unilateral actions by any WTO Member prior to authorization by the WTO is likely inconsistent with WTO obligations. Thus, such action shouldn’t be encouraged but is inevitable in circumstances like the Lithuania one covered in the present dispute where the actions taken follow a pattern of abuse of WTO obligations.

While Australia and the EU have pursued or are pursuing discrete WTO disputes against such coercion from China, a broader and more timely solution is obviously needed for such willful disregard of WTO obligations by a Member.

While China likes to state that it is a major defender of the multilateral trading system, its record belies that claim.

COVID-19 Omicron variant – hopeful signs of peaking in the U.S. and Europe; supply disruptions continue from zero tolerance policy in China

In a recent post, I reviewed vaccine equity issues around the COVID-19 pandemic and recent developments including a new low-cost vaccine being produced in India and available to be produced in many countries with no licensing costs. See January 11, 2022:  WTO efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic — the January 10, 2022 General Council meeting and some current developments of interest,

The omicron variant has wreaked havoc in Europe and in the U.S., though there are signs of the huge surge in cases starting to ebb. See, e.g., European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, COVID-19 situation update worldwide, as of week 2, updated 20 January 2022 (data for last two weeks of 2021 not available; huge surge from omicron reflected in curve; dark blue is Europe, light blue is the Americas). The following chart shows new cases worldwide.

COVID-19 situation update worldwide, as of week 2, updated 20 January 2022

Distribution of COVID-19 cases worldwide, as of week 2 2022
The ECDC data show the U.S. being the first country to record more than 10 million infections in a fourteen day period (10.586 million; weekly data from the ECDC actually show 12.52 million cases reported in the U.S. in the first two weeks of 2022). The huge surge in Europe in the last several months is spread across many countries. France has been particularly hard hit with new cases numbering in the hundreds of thousands per day for nearly every day in January (highest, 464,679 on January 19 with declines since then). See ECDC, Data on the daily number of new reported COVID-19 cases and deaths by EU/EEA country 20 January 2022,

In the United States, there is a note of optimism as the national number appears to be coming down. The decline is significant in some states where omicron was first identified but cases are still increasing in other parts of the country. See, e.g., NBC News, ‘An optimistic trend’: Covid cases are falling, but U.S. isn’t out of the woods yet, January 22, 2022, (“Cases are already falling in parts of the Northeast, Walensky said. ‘We are starting to see steep declines in areas that were first peaking, so areas of the Northeast — New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut — are really starting to come down.’ Shea said that cases in the rest of the country and deaths, which lag behind cases, are expected to trail shortly after. The big dropoff in cases in large states like New York can make the nationwide average look lower, even though cases are still rising in many states, but she expects all states to hit their peaks soon after Northeastern states.” 

Supply chain problems that have plagued the world for many months now and led to both shortages and large inflationary pressures may continue in part because of China’s zero-tolerance COVID policy has resulted in more shutdowns ahead of the approaching winter olympic games. See, e.g., New York Times, Supply Chain Woes Could Worsen as China Imposes New Covid Lockdowns, January 16, 2022, (“Companies are bracing for another round of potentially debilitating supply chain disruptions as China, home to about a third of global manufacturing, imposes sweeping lockdowns in an attempt to keep the Omicron variant at bay.”).

Many countries, including the U.S. and EU, are reviewing supply chain issues to improve resiliency and reduce risks. Both the U.S. and EU for example have been looking at legislation to bolster semiconductor chip manufacturing. See, e.g., World Economic Forum, ‘There’s no digital without chips’: New European Chips Act announced, 20 January 2022 (“European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has announced a new European Chips Act”),; Reuters, U.S. House bill on China competitiveness, chip investment, coming soon – Pelosi, January 21, 2022,

While discussions continue around trade and health issues at the WTO including what, if any, temporary waiver from TRIPS obligations or other actions to improve vaccine production may be needed, data available on vaccine production and shipments continue to suggest that the issue is not necessary for a resolution to the COVID-19 pandemic. See, e.g., WTO-IMF COVID-19 Vaccine Trade Tracker, Last updated: 17 January 2021, (showing total supply to the end of December at 11.5 billion doses; exports of 4.4 billion doses, with rapidly increasing shipments to low income and lower-middle income countries in the last few months of 2021). Several tables from the latest WTO-IMF COVID-19 Vaccine Trade Tracker are copied below.

“3. Imports

“Imports are defined as the number of doses received from producing economies, mirroring the information provided in the exports section. This definition does not take into account imports of vaccine substances in bulk form to be used in ‘fill and finish’ sites.”

Income Group ImportsNumber of doses (million)Doses per 100 peoplePopulation (million)
Low income234.034.5678.4
Lower middle income1,482.149.52,994.7
Upper middle income1,748.559.72,930.4
High income935.675.41,241.6
Note: as of 31 December 2021

ContinentNumber of doses (million)Doses per 100 peoplePopulation (million)
South America682.7157.3434.0
North America460.577.7592.8
Note: as of 31 December 2021

With more vaccines being reviewed by the WHO and individual countries, production of vaccines in 2022 will exceed volumes produced in 2021. Exports will also increase as trends in the second half of 2021 show have been happening.

While different sources look at vaccinations for individual countries and territories, attached is an excel spreadsheet of data from the World Health Organization for data available as of January 20, 2022. There are countries not covered by the WHO data (e.g., Taiwan) and others for which there is no World Bank 2022 income designation. I have added the categories of the World Bank GNI per capita income (low income, lower-middle income, upper-middle income, high income) to the WHO table. At the end of the WHO listing I have broken the data out by income group. For those countries/territories with no World Bank designation, they are listed “na”. For countries or territories in the World Bank list but not shown on the WHO list, I have included the name of the country/territory at the end of the income grouping.

As reviewed in prior posts, for groups and organizations focuses on vaccine equity, it is important to understand the causes of the very large differences in vaccines/100 people shown within at least the low income, lower-middle income and upper-middle income categories. For example, Rwanda (97.195 vaccinations/100 people), Mozambique (54.492 vaccinations/100 people) are low income countries. But their experience in vaccine access is much different than many other low income countries (most under 30 vaccine doses/100 people, many under 20 or 10/100 people, one less than 1/100 people). Medical infrastructure and many other factors are certainly important components in improving vaccine access to many low income countries. See GAVI, World leaders launch call for renewed support for vaccination in 2022 as part of the global fight against COVID-19, (” Specifically, COVAX leaders called for at least US$ 5.2bn in new funding: US$ 3.7 billion to fund a 600 million dose Pandemic Vaccine Pool to address uncertainties and related uncovered risks, such as boosters, additional coverage, new variant vaccines if required, and to make sure there is reliable supply for the poorest countries. In addition, catalytic delivery funding of US$ 1 billion is requested to support getting doses into arms rapidly and safely without undermining routine immunization activities. A further US$ 545 million is needed to cover ancillary costs such as syringes, transport and insurance for donations.”).

The same is true for lower-middle income countries with Cambodia and Mongolia recording 189.643 and 164.686 vaccine doses/100 people respectively while Nigeria, Cameroon and and Zambia report just 9.007, 3.859, and 5.665 vaccine doses/100 people respectively. Seventeen countries have reported more than 100 vaccine doses/100 people while 9 have reported 20 vaccine doses/100 people or fewer.

The same is true for upper-middle income countries where the range of vaccine doses/100 people range from 32.258 for Equitorial Guinea to 283.945 for Cuba.


Is it time for a new approach to bilateral trade with China?

Press accounts last week reviewed new record merchandise trade surpluses for China with the world and a growing trade surplus with the United States despite the Section 301 tariffs and other actions which reduced the bilateral trade deficit in 2019 and 2020 from the figures in 2018. See Reuters, China posts record trade surplus in Dec and 2021 on robust exports, January 14, 2022, (“The trade surplus hit $676.43 billion in 2021, the highest since records started in 1950, up from $523.99 billion in 2020, according to data from the statistics bureau.” “China’s hefty trade surplus with the United States, a key source of contention between the world’s two biggest economies, hit $39.23 billion in December, widening from $36.95 billion the month before, but below this year’s high of $42 billion in September.”). While U.S. trade data are not yet available for December, the U.S. bilateral trade deficit with China for eleven months of 2021 was $319.151 billion, suggesting full year deficit with China of more than $358 billion — reversing the declining deficits of the last several years with China.

For the U.S., 2021 will be the first year where the trade deficit in goods exceeds $1 trillion dollars. So while the U.S. has significant deficits with a number of countries, for the Biden Administration and Congress, the most concerning aspect of the deficit is the effect of distortions flowing from China’s economic system, one that is at odds with the U.S. market-based system and not consistent with WTO basic principles.

I have in prior posts reviewed the incompatability of the Chinese economic system with WTO norms. I have also provided the views of a former WTO Deputy Director-General on the importance of convergence of economic systems as opposed to coexistence, and the views of trade officials in the U.S. and EU on challenges posed by Chna’s economic system. See, e.g., December 11, 2021:  20 Years of China’s Membership in the WTO — a brief critique,; October 16, 2021:  What role China could play in WTO reform — possibilities are real but chances of a positive role are not,; April 8, 2021:  USTR 2021 National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers — areas of concern with a focus on China,; March 31, 2021:  “Blowing up the trading system” — Clyde Prestowitz’s suggested way for the world to move forward in light of China’s economic system,; March 29, 2021:  China and the WTO – remarks by Dennis C. Shea to the Coalition for a Prosperous America,; January 17, 2021, USTR on January 14, 2021 released its 2020 report to Congress on China’s WTO compliance,; November 10, 2020:  The values of the WTO – do Members and the final Director-General candidates endorse all of them?,; August 24, 2020:  USTR Lighthizer’s Op Ed in the Wall Street Journal – How to Set World Trade Straight,; July 25, 2020:  A new WTO without China?  The July 20, 2020 Les Echos opinion piece by Mogens Peter Carl, a former EC Director General for Trade and then Environment,

As has been reviewed in annual USTR reviews of China’s compliance with WTO commitments, the challenges faced by China’s trading partners are many and largely unaddressed despite efforts through dispute settlement, through bilateral negotiations and otherwise. The U.S.-China Phase 1 Agreement resulted in minimal affirmative movement in U.S. exports to China and there are open issues in terms of China’s implementation and enforcement of other commitments. See, e.g., Peterson Institute for International Economics, December 23, 2021, US-China phase one tracker: China’s purchases of US goods, As of November 2021, While there were increases in U.S. exports to China over 2017 levels in 2020 and 2021 for agriculture, manufactured goods and energy, there were large declines for non-covered goods, so that there was relatively little actual overall progress on merchandise trade and large declines in services trade. See, e.g., USITC data web, U.S. total exports to China (2017, $130.0 BN; 2018, $120.2 BN; 2019, $106.4 BN; 2020, $124.5 BN; 2021 (11 mos.) $137.7 BN); U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, MONTHLY U.S. INTERNATIONAL TRADE IN GOODS AND SERVICES, NOVEMBER 2021, January 6, 2022, (Exhibit 20b).


Obviously for nations facing the challenges of dealing with the distortions flowing from China’s economic system, one can attempt to work through the WTO and seek reforms that will address at least some of the major distortions. The U.S., EU, Japan and others are attempting that in the areas of industrial subsidies, state owned and controlled entities and other areas. The prognosis for movement is limited in the near term and even in the middle or long-term as long as China is committed to maintaining its system. Plurilateral negotiations on Joint Statement Initiatives also offer some hope for certain areas, assuming China is a participant and actually implements obligations undertaken.

Plurilateral trade agreements, such as CPTPP, could be another option. China has applied and would have to undertake some significant reforms to enter. The real question would be whether those changes would change the underlying disconnect between the state system pursued by China and market disciplines followed by many others.

Others have argued for major countries withdrawing from the WTO and setting up a system where China is either not a member or must become a market economy in fact to participate. Arguably if the EU and US were to join the CPTPP and seek further modifications, and if China’s application were not accepted until China’s system were significantly modified, this would be an option. A suggestion from the former EC Trade Commissioner is for the EU and U.S. to join the CPTPP. See PIIE’s Cecilia Malmstrom, The EU should use its trade power strategically, January 4, 2022, (“The European Union should also seek to enter the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and convince the United States to do the same. The European Union already has agreements with most members of the CPTPP, but an FTA would signal the European Union’s readiness to strengthen global trading rules with its partners.”).

The United States has pursued a strategy of strengthening various tools to address discrete issues with China and working with China to have them honor their existing WTO and bilateral agreements. Presumably that approach will continue to be pursued, but the downside of such an approach without more is the long time delay to meaningful change which means ongoing harm to the U.S. industrial base, workers and communities.

Warren Buffett in 2003 and again in 2016 advocated for a system of issuing import certificates to exporters equal to the value of the exports which certificates could be sold, etc. and which would result in a trade balance in goods. See, e.g., Fortune, Warren Buffett: Here’s How I Would Solve the Trade Problem,
April 29, 2016, ttps:// His idea was to address the trade deficit overall and not focus on trading partners whose economic systems don’t mesh with the U.S. model. But an approach vis-a-vis selected countries pending the necessary economic reforms would be a narrower option and more focused on the underlying concern.

Last month in the Harvard Business Review, an article by Thomas Hout argued for a cap and trade system with China. See Harvard Business Review, Thomas Hout, A New Approach to Rebalancing the U.S-China
Trade Deficit, December 20, 2021, The cap and trade approach is similar to Warren Buffett’s idea but limited to trade with China, as the author notes.

“Such a cap-and-trade system for imports from China would be much like the one for greenhouse gas emissions in various parts of the world. The beauty of this system is its insulation from political favoritism and bureaucracy: Market forces would determine who buys licenses and what gets imported. The cap’s level can be managed relative to a target such as GDP or the size of the trade deficit.” The author suggests flexibility in its implementation to limit any disruptions to U.S. businesses.


The Biden Administration has put its initial efforts into addressing domestic competitive needs such as the infrastructure legislation and the Build Back Better bill. At the same time, the Administration has been reviewing how the U.S. should be dealing with China across a broad array of issues including trade.

A multifaceted approach will certainly be needed. While the U.S. has pursued various multifaceted approaches in the past, China’s decision not to abandon state direction and control requires a recognition that global trade principles alone will not ensure fair trade conditions for U.S. companies either in the U.S., in China or in third countries.

In such a situation, considering a cap and trade system for trade with China and encouraging our major market-based trading partners to do the same would seem an important tool for achieving greater sustainability in our trade relationship with China.

How to Make Trade Work for Working Men and Women in 2022 — changing the status quo is needed but unrealistic in the near future

In prior posts, I have reviewed how the existing global trading system is not working as intended because of the massive distortions created by different economic systems (in particular, the presence and growth on state directed economies). See, e.g., October 16, 2021:  What role China could play in WTO reform — possibilities are real but chances of a positive role are not, (“Trade and the WTO have obviously been highly beneficial to China and to many other Members. Nonetheless, China has been working hard not to have its economic system evolve to a market-based one. It has generally not pursued liberalization that benefits all versus favoring China. It insists on coexistence vs. convergence. It uses the consensus system to prevent evaluation of its practices which distort trade It has limited transparency of its actions and has engaged in actions against individual Members that are retaliatory and coercive. As the world’s largest exporter, China has a critical role in global trade. But the dangers Amb. Wolff has outlined in his speech where market principles and convergence are not the core values are manifesting themselves in the world marketplace as countries look for alternative approaches to deal with China’s trade distortions. Amb. Wolff’s speech outlines a number of ways that China can improve the functioning of the WTO and exhibit leadership in WTO reform. His speech is an important one which hopefully has had a receptive audience in China. Unfortunately, while there are some identified actions that China may take, it is unlikely that China will do anything to address the critical differences that its economic system poses to the survival of the global trading system.”); October 8, 2021: The gap between WTO activity and the needs of businesses and workers for the international trading system, (“The challenges at the WTO flow from some historical challenges (the preference of India to see no agreements imposing obligations on them, now supported by South Africa and others), from the growing divergence in views as to the purpose of the WTO, from the increased importance of non-market economies in the global trading system and the current failure of existing rules to address their distortions to global trade flows and competition, and the inability of a consensus system with 164 Members to move forward in a timely manner, if at all.”); May 1, 2021:  Alan Wolff’s vision for saving the WTO — aspirational but is it achievable?,; March 31, 2021:  “Blowing up the trading system” — Clyde Prestowitz’s suggested way for the world to move forward in light of China’s economic system,, March 29, 2021:  China and the WTO – remarks by Dennis C. Shea to the Coalition for a Prosperous America,; March 24, 2021:  When human rights violations create trade distortions — the case of China’s treatment of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang,

The Biden Administration has been advocating a worker centric trade policy and has advanced domestic policies intended to improve U.S. competitiveness. But the challenges for working men and women in a trading system that doesn’t operate in fact on market principles and doesn’t have effective tools for addressing quickly distortions can be seen in the conflicts that arise when trade actions are taken by a single country. Remedies imposed (such as duties, quotas, etc.) will help the harmed industries and workers, although based on the level of difficulty of achieving a remedy, may occur only after the industry and its workers have suffered isignificant harm (layoffs, plant closings, reduced investment, etc.). At the same time, downstream users who have to compete with products from producers in other countries who have access to the distortively priced products view themselves as harmed by conditions of fair trade being imposed on inputs.

When a country like China engages in massive distortions through state direction, subsidization and other means, global excess capacity of extraordinary amounts can put global competitors in a long term struggle to survive despite not having caused the excess capacity. The Trump Administration imposed Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum to address U.S. national security concerns about the sectors with the primary cause of the problem being China’s actions and the global reactions to massive excess capacity. Similarly, long standing concerns about a range of practices by China led to the Trump Administration’s Section 301 investigation in 2018 and action when China did not address the U.S. concerns (with retaliation and counter actions following).

While many countries filed WTO disputes in 2018 on the 232 actions of the U.S. and a number of countries retaliated without WTO authorization (many claiming U.S. was a safeguard action permitting at least some retaliation immediately) and China challenged the 301 action, and the U.S. filed challenges to the retaliation taken by trading partners, those disputes remain before panels at the beginning of 2022, with indications that panel reports will issue during the first half of 2022 (232 challenges) or second half of 2022 (cases on retaliation).

The Biden Administration has continued both sets of remedies though has come up wth alternatives to tariffs for steel and aluminum with certain trading partners (EU, Japan in negotiations).

Because users of products subject to Section 232 or 301 tariffs look at the short term issue of cost competitiveness (and the consequences to their businesses and workers), importers have pursued broader product exclusions from tariffs or an end to the tariffs altogether. As has been true over the last three years, such efforts have support from some members of Congress.

Thus, conflict exists among different groups within the United States but flows directly from the massive market distortions flowing from activities by some countries for which there are no existing remedies. While seeking changes in global trading rules is an important avenue for change, such change will take years (a decade or more in all likelihood) to achieve, if any resolution is actually possible. The steel and aluminum sectors have been seeking a global solution to the massive excess capacity problem caused by China and others for years now with no demonstrable progress.

For workers in the industries directly affected by the massive distortions, they have been promised a trading system where trade will be guided by market principles and where distortions can be addressed through trade defense instruments or other tools or where temporary relief from imports can take place to address significant problems. Very clearly, the trading system has not ensured a level playing field in fact and has not addressed the massive distortions that exist for countries with state-controlled or directed economies like China. This has put an unreasonable burden on workers and their employers to pursue trade remedies in a system where there is no compensation for past harm and relief is not available until jobs are lost, companies have shuttered factories, reduced investment including in R&D.

A recent letter to the U.S. Congress from the United Steelworkers International President Thomas M. Conway on various duties (301, 232 and other) lays out the frustrations of working men and women who are in the direct line of attack from trade distortions abroad and their need for relief from such practices. The letter is embedded below.


The USW is a former client of my firm before my retirement. As a result, I am aware of the extraordinary effort they take to preserve jobs from the effects of market distortions in a wide array of manufacturing sectors in the U.S. The USW understandably views efforts to undermine trade actions to address distortions or to protect national security as contrary to the interests of working men and women.

While 232 and 301 relief have been subject to exclusion processes in the U.S., for users, such processes will work only when applicants are actually attempting to work with domestic producers or third country producers for alternative sources of supply (for either immediate supply or for supply in the coming months/years) and only where frivolous requests carry some costs for the applicant. Exclusions should only continue until an alternate source or sources of supply are found and shouldn’t frustrate efforts of domestic producers and their workers to expand offerings. The existence of a lower price from China or others should not be the basis for an exclusion where a domestic producer is producing or will product the specific product of interest.

The challenge for the United States and other WTO Members is to adopt rules that deliver a level playing field in fact, that prevent massive global excess capacity, that permit defensive action to be taken before plants are closed, workers laid off, investments postponed or cancelled and R&D reduced, and that compensate companies and workers injured by dumping, subsidization and other distortive practices to reduce the incentive to engage in such practices.

The WTO and Member governments can’t be surprised at the lack of support for the trading system from many working men and women when a fundamental promise of the system is not kept — competition based on market principles with remedies to address distortions in a timely manner. The WTO has never been able to move quickly. Many issues simply never get addressed because of the consensus system and the lack of agreement on fundamental purpose and principles by the existing 164 Members. Thus, one should expect continued concern among working men and women with the ability of the WTO to deliver market based competition with effective remedies for distortions.

China’s “bullying” of Lithuania — a repeating story inconsistent with WTO rules

While China portrays itself as a champion of the global trading system and the WTO rules, it has a long history of misusing WTO provisions and cutting off market access to punish countries that take actions that China objects to. In a prior post, I reviewed the actions of China against Australia — actions that China has pretended were not occurring or simply reflected product quality issues or unfair trade actions by Australia. See December 22, 2020:  China’s trade war with Australia – unwarranted and at odds with China’s portrayal of itself as a strong supporter of the WTO,

Members have raised concerns about lack of transparency and discriminatory practices in various fora at the WTO including during the recent Trade Policy Review of China (hearing held on October 20 and 22, 2021), as captured in the Chair’s concluding statement. See WTO news release, TRADE POLICY REVIEW: CHINA, Concluding remarks by the Chairperson, 20-22 October 2021, (“Some Members also voiced concerns over a general increase in non-transparent and discriminatory measures and practices in China, sometimes in response to political disagreements with other trading partners. They urged China to take measures to end non-transparent and discriminatory measures.”).

Similarly, in the January 2021, USTR 2020 Report to Congress on China’s WTO Compliance (pages 7-8), USTR provided a review of a number of concerns including retaliation, intimidation and lack of transparency.

“China has been a particularly bad actor when it comes to trade remedies. While the use of trade remedies in a manner consistent with WTO rules is an important tool for protecting domestic industries
from unfair and injurious trade practices, China has made a practice of launching antidumping (AD) and
countervailing duty (CVD) investigations that appear designed to discourage its trading partners from the
legitimate exercise of their rights under WTO rules. This type of retaliatory conduct is not typical of WTO
members, nor is it a legitimate basis for seeking AD and CVD relief. Moreover, when China has pursued
AD and CVD investigations under these circumstances, it appears that its regulatory authorities have tended to move forward with the imposition of duties regardless of the strength of the underlying legal claims and evidence. The United States’ three successful WTO cases challenging the duties imposed by China on imports of U.S. grainoriented electrical steel (GOES), U.S. chicken broiler products, and U.S. automobiles offer telling examples of this problem. Indeed, China’s poor behavior does not always stop after an adverse WTO ruling. In two of the three WTO cases brought by the United States on trade remedies, China did not implement the WTO’s recommendations, and the United States was forced to bring Article 21.5 compliance proceedings to secure China’s compliance.

“China’s retaliatory use of trade remedies highlights another unique issue that WTO members face when
dealing with China – the threat of reprisal. It is no secret that foreign companies are hesitant to speak
publicly, or to be perceived as working with their governments to challenge China’s trade policies or
practices, because they fear retaliation from the Chinese state. A study by one U.S. industry association noted that foreign companies confidentially have reported receiving explicit or implicit threats from Chinese government officials – typically made orally rather than in writing – about possible retaliatory actions that could have severe repercussions for a company’s business prospects in China. At the same time, it is also no secret that China threatens more vulnerable WTO members to dissuade them from speaking publicly against China.

“A further persistent problem is China’s inadequate transparency. China disregards many of its WTO
transparency obligations, which places its trading partners at a disadvantage and often serves as a
cloak for China to conceal unfair trade policies and practices from scrutiny. For example, for the first 15
years of its WTO membership, China failed to notify any sub-central government subsidies to the WTO,
despite the fact that most subsidies in China emanate from provincial and local governments. The magnitude and significance of this problem is illustrated by the five WTO cases that the United States has brought challenging prohibited subsidies maintained by China. While those cases involved hundreds of subsidies, most of the subsidies were provided by sub-central governments. The United States was able to bring those cases only because of its own extensive investigatory efforts to uncover China’s opaque subsidization practices. Most other WTO members lack the resources to conduct the same types of investigations. Today, China continues to shield massive sub-central government subsidies from the scrutiny of WTO members. Together with other non-market practices, these subsidies contribute to the serious excess capacity problems that plague industries like steel, aluminum, solar panels, and fishing and devastate global markets and foreign competitors. Industrial plans such as Made in China 2025, which reportedly targets 10 sectors in China with hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies, inevitably will create a new wave of industries with severe excess capacity to the detriment of China’s trading partners.

“For years, the United States has urged China to change the behaviors described above and become a
responsible member of the WTO. In the future, the United States will continue this effort. The United States also will continue to use the WTO dispute settlement mechanism as an enforcement tool as
appropriate and will continue working through WTO committees and councils and other WTO bodies to
seek effective actions to curb problematic Chinese policies and practices.”

The Chinese actions against Lithuania and indirectly against the European Union and United States

Last year, China embargoed imports from Lithuania after a warming of relations between Lithuania and Taiwan (Chinese Taipei). There are many articles on the row between China and Lithuania, but China’s political concerns about Lithuania’s actions towards Taiwan have led it to put pressure on European and U.S. companies in China to cut off using Lithuanian parts as well as embargoing imports from Lithuania and from other countries where products include Lithuanian components. See, e.g., Politico, China’s trade attack on Lithuania exposes EU’s powerlessness; Companies from several EU countries that depend on Lithuanian supply chains are now finding they face blockades at Chinese ports, December 16, 2021, (“As Lithuania sought to deepen diplomatic ties with Taiwan over recent months, Beijing has moved to make an example of Vilnius by flexing its massive trade muscle and stopping imports of Lithuanian goods. Business organizations told POLITICO that China’s embargo is now hitting manufactured goods from other EU countries — such as France, Germany and Sweden — that are dependent on Lithuanian supply chains.” “A China-based business executive told POLITICO that Beijing is putting pressure on EU businesses to stop importing Lithuanian products. The executive explained that two German companies in the auto industry had parts stopped at Chinese ports in recent days because they were manufactured in Lithuania. Some of these components could take years to be replaced with trusted alternative suppliers, he added.”); Bloomberg, Europe Raises China-Lithuania Trade Dispute With WTO Chief, December 9, 2021, chief#:~:text=The%20EU%20raised%20Lithuania’s%20claim,denied%20it’s%20blocking%20Lithuania’s%20exports (“The European Union raised its concerns over a growing dispute between member state Lithuania and China to the World Trade Organization as efforts by the bloc to get information from Beijing have been rebuffed.” “‘The EU is informed that Lithuanian shipments are not being cleared through Chinese customs and that import applications from Lithuania are being rejected,’ the EU’s trade chief, Valdis Dombrovskis, told reporters in Brussels on Thursday.”).

Typically, the Chinese government has hidden behind claims of faulty products, have denied intimidation or failing to grant import licenses. See, e.g., Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian’s Regular Press Conference on December 22, 2021, question from The Paper and answer by Zhao Lijian

The Paper: During the phone call with Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte on December 21, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he noted public reports that China’s customs authorities are not clearing Lithuanian shipments or shipments with Lithuanian components, and that they are rejecting import applications from Lithuania. He said that such measures appear to constitute economic coercion. The US underscored its support for Lithuania and the commitment to work with like-minded countries to push back against China’s coercive diplomatic and economic behavior. What is China’s comment?

“Zhao Lijian: The Lithuanian side bears the sole responsibility for the severe difficulties in China-Lithuania relations. The claim that China’s authorities ‘are not clearing Lithuanian shipments’ and that ‘they are rejecting import applications from Lithuania’ is not true. If companies face technical problems in exporting certain products to China, they can report to competent Chinese authorities through normal channels.”

Nonetheless, Chinese media understand the embargo applied by China against Lithuanian goods and other goods incorporating Lithuanian components. See, e.g., South China Morning Post, China snubs EU efforts to mediate in Lithuania row, as trade embargo worsens, 9 December 2021,

The U.S. has announced its support for Lithuania and the European Union in seeking to end the bullying and coercion. See, e.g., USTR press release, Readout of Ambassador Katherine Tai’s Call With Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, January 5, 2022,; U.S. Department of State Press Release, Secretary Antony J. Blinken and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at a Joint Press Availability, January 5, 2002, The USTR readout and an excerpt from Secretary Blinken during the joint press conference are copied below.

“January 05, 2022

“WASHINGTON – United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai today spoke with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis and expressed the United States’ continuing strong support for Lithuania in the face of economic coercion from the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

“Ambassador Tai emphasized the U.S. commitment to working with the European Union and its Member States to address coercive diplomatic and economic behavior. They discussed the importance to addressing our shared challenges through a close, transatlantic partnership that embraces and reflects U.S. and EU jointly-held values, which can be supported in part through the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council. Ambassador Tai and Minister Landsbergis both noted that the United States and the EU, as democratic market economies, share a number of core values and principles that we need to defend internationally.

“Ambassador Tai and Minister Landsbergis agreed to stay in regular communication to strengthen the U.S. – EU and U.S. – Lithuanian economic relationship and to continue to address the PRC’s economic coercion.”


“The foreign minister and I also discussed China. Germany and the United States agree on the importance of transatlantic coordination on China because it poses a significant challenge to our shared values; to the laws, rules, and agreements that foster stability, prosperity, and freedom worldwide. We also agreed that together, we will continue to build, across the board, an affirmative vision for the future because fundamentally, this is about what we’re for together, not what we’re against.

“Having said that, we have immediate concern about the Government of China’s attempts to bully Lithuania, a country of fewer than three million people. China is pushing European and American companies to stop building products with components made in Lithuania or risk losing access to the Chinese market, all because Lithuania chose to expand their cooperation with Taiwan.

“Here again, this isn’t just about Lithuania, but about how every country in the world should be able to determine its own foreign policy free from this kind of coercion. And the United States will work with our allies and partners, including Germany, to stand up against intimidation like this from China by strengthening our economic resilience, diversifying our supply chains, and countering all forms of economic blackmail. And we’ll continue to stand together against flagrant human rights abuses by the Government of China and advocating for universal human rights around the world.”

China responded to the U.S. statements of support for Lithuania viewing such support as an effort to create a wedge between China and Taiwan. See, e.g., NPR, China lashes out at U.S. for supporting Lithuania in feud with Beijing over Taiwan, January 6, 2022,

China’s actions undermine integrity of WTO system and promote retaliation

While many WTO Members may take actions that are inconsistent with WTO obligations over time, the WTO is premised on Members’ commitment to compliance, transparency to permit trading partners to understand and, where appropriate, challenge Member policies, laws, regulations, practices and actions. While non-trade issues are relevant in most/all bilateral relationships, the WTO is premised on Members not taking trade actions that are inconsistent with WTO obligations for political reasons.

China’s practice of taking punitive actions against trading partners where it disagrees with actions taken by such trading partners, hiding the fact and denying the existence of such actions, intimidating companies invested in China or exporting to China and misusing WTO trade defense tools and standards as a means of retaliation is clearly contrary to a rules based approach to trade embodied by the WTO.

Uncorrected, such actions encourage large trading partners to consider unilateral retaliation options as is happening now in the European Union. See Politico, France eyes quick anti-China action to bail out Lithuania in trade war, January 6, 2022, (“France wants the EU to punch back quickly to stop China holding the bloc hostage in a snowballing trade conflict over Lithuania.” “The EU has plans to roll out a new trade weapon called an ‘anti-coercion instrument’ to retaliate in precisely these kinds of cases but that fresh legislation could take years to fully enter into force and Paris is signaling that action over Lithuania would be needed well before that. When asked whether Paris would push for EU action to resist Beijing before the anti-coercion instrument is ready, a senior French government official on Thursday told POLITICO: ‘Yes. We will take measures very quickly.'”).

Presumably, like minded Members (e.g., U.S., EU, Japan, Korea, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and others) will be looking at what types of WTO reforms would have a better chance of minimizing the type of bullying and economic coercion being practiced by China. The real question is whether such reforms can be adopted and whether they could be effective. Any such reforms are years away in a best case situation. Until then, one should expect continued flouting of WTO rules by China when it finds such actions politically attractive.

The Russian Federation’s compliance with WTO obligations — the recent USTR Report

The Russian Federation became the 156th Member of the WTO on August 22, 2012. Since the accession of the Russian Federation, eight other countries have acceded, the last on July 29, 2016 with 23 additional countries in the queue at the WTO. Like other WTO Members, the Russian Federation goes through periodic Trade Policy Reviews (“TPR”) as part of the WTO’s effort to ensure transparency in Member policies and to permit Members to raise questions on policies and practices of each other. The first TPR for the Russian Federation was conducted in 2016. See TRADE POLICY REVIEW, REPORT BY THE SECRETARIAT, RUSSIAN FEDERATION, 24 August 2016, WT/TPR/S/345; TRADE POLICY REVIEW, REPORT BY

The second TPR was conducted in 2021 with the two day meeting with Members happening on October 27 and 29, 2021. See TRADE POLICY REVIEW, REPORT BY THE SECRETARIAT, RUSSIAN FEDERATION, 22 September 2021, WT/TPR/S/416; TRADE POLICY REVIEW, REPORT BY RUSSIAN FEDERATION, 22 September 2021, WT/TPR/G/416; TRADE POLICY REVIEW MECHANISM, COMMUNICATION FROM THE CHAIRPERSON OF THE TRADE POLICY REVIEW BODY, RUSSIAN FEDERATION, Arrangements for Review Meeting, 6 October 2021, WT/TPR/466; TRADE POLICY REVIEW: RUSSIAN FEDERATION, Concluding remarks by the Chairperson, 27 and 29 October 2021,; EU Statement at the Trade Policy Review of the Russian Federation, 27 October 2021,; Statement by H.E. Ambassador LI Chenggang at the 2nd Trade Policy Review of Russia,

While the Russian Federation is not an important trading partner of the United States, because of the geopolitical relationship for the last many decades, the U.S. Congress has required an annual report on the Russian Federation’s compliance with WTO obligations since Russia’s accession in 2012. The ninth such report was released by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on December 21, 2021. See USTR Press Release, USTR Announces 2021 Report on the Implementation and Enforcement of Russia’s WTO Commitments, December 21, 2021,; United States Trade Representative, 2021 Report on the Implementation and Enforcement of Russia’s WTO Commitments, December 2021,’s%20WTO%20Compliance.pdf.

Today’s post reviews some of the USTR findings but starts with some background information on the Russian Federation and a look at the recent Trade Policy Review for the country.

Background information on the Russian Federation

The CIA World Factbook provides a lot of information on countries. The entry for the Russian Federation was last updated on December 17, 2021. See CIA, World Factbook, Russia, According to the CIA World Factbook, the Russian Federation:

o is the largest country by land area (and roughly 1.8 times as large as the USA);

o has borders with fourteen countries (Azerbaijan, Belarus, China, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Mongolia, Norway, Poland and Ukraine);

o has a coastline of 3,653 km;

o has the ninth largest population in the world (142,320,790 as of July 2021 est.);

o had a negative population growth rate in 2021 (-0.2%, placing it 207th on population growth);

o has a low birth rate (9.71 births per 1000 population, or 193rd in the world)

o has a high literacy rate (99.7% of those 15 years of age or older);

o had relatively low GDP growth in 2017-2019 (1.34% – 2.54%) or 160th in the world

o has low public debt (15.5% of GDP in 2017);

o has large foreign exchange reserves and gold (6th largest);

o is the world’s second largest producer and exporter of crude oil;

o is the world’s 3rd largest producer of refined petroleum products and 2nd largest exporter;

o is the world’s 2nd largest natural gas producer and largest exporter.

The CIA World Factbook has a great deal more information but the above are some examples of data on the Russian Federation.

Despite the Russian Federation’s high levels of education and abundant natural resources, the country in 2022 is rated by the World Bank as only an upper middle-income country (2020 GNI per capita of between $4,096 and $12,695). See World Bank Country and Lending Groups, Country Classification, July 1, 2021, Russia in 2020 had a per capita GNI in current U.S. dollars of $10,690 which ranked the Russian Federation 74th. See World Bank, GNI per capita, Atlas method (current US$) – Russian Federation,

Because so much of the economy is driven by the gas and oil sectors, increasing prices for both in 2021 led to strong growth in GDP in the Russian Federation, although growth is expected to moderate in 2022 and 2023. See World Bank, Amidst Strong Economic Rebound in Russia, Risks Stemming from COVID-19 and Inflation Build, Says World Bank Report, December 1, 2021,

The World Trade Organization provides useful information on each Member in various publications including its annual Trade Profiles. The 2021 publication shows that in 2020, the Russian Federation accounted for 1.89% of world merchandise exports and 1.35% of world merchandise imports. Total Russian Federation exports were $332.227 billion and its total imports were $240.380 billion. Its five largest export markets were the European Union (41.3%), China (13.4%), Belarus (5.1%), Turkey (5%) and the Republic of Korea (3.8%). The Russian Federation’s five largest trading partners for imports into the Russian Federation were the European Union (34.2%), China (21.9%), Belarus (5.5%), the United States (5.4%) and Japan (3.6%).

As noted, fuels and mining products are the largest exports — 59.1% of total Russian exports in 2020 with petoleum oils (crude and refined) accounting for$189.176 billion (49.49%). Coal ($15.987 billion) and natural gas ($9.501 billion) are the next largest export products.

The Russian Federation accounts for a smaller shares of the export trade in commercial services — 0.95% of global exports and a slightly larger share of imports of commercial services, 1.38%. The European Union accounts for the largest share of commercial service exports from the Russian Federation (35.9%) and 47.5% of the Russian Federation’s imports of commercial services. The U.S. accounts for 6.5% of Russia’s exports of commercial services and 4% of imports of such services into the Russian Federation. China is the third largest importer of Russian commercial services (6.2% of Russia’s exports) and 3.7% of Russia’s imports.

See World Trade Organization Trade Profiles 2021 at 298-299, October 2021,

WTO Trade Policy Review of the Russian Federation in 2021

While the minutes to the 2021 TPR of the Russian Federation and the written questions and replies are not yet available, the Secretariat review along with the Russian Federation write-up are available as is the concluding statement of the chairman of the review on the Russian Federation. Both the EU and China’s statements on October 27 at the review are also available.

For brevity, the Chair’s concluding comments and the statement of the European Union (as the largest trading partner for the Russian Federation) are copied below. Both follow norms for the WTO by identifying areas where the Member being reviewed has made contributions to the system and then follows with particular concerns of some other Members. First the concluding remarks by the Chairperson on 29 October 2021. TRADE POLICY REVIEW: RUSSIAN FEDERATION, Concluding remarks by the Chairperson, 27 and 29 October 2021,

“Concluding remarks by the Chairperson

“The second Trade Policy Review of the Russian Federation has allowed us to better understand and discuss recent developments regarding trade, economic, and investment policies in the Russian Federation. 57 delegations took the floor, which demonstrates the importance Members attach to the review of the policies and practices of the Russian Federation. 1,017 advance written questions were submitted by Members, with additional questions submitted during and following the first day of our meeting.

“I would like to thank the delegation of the Russian Federation, headed by Ms Ekaterina MAYOROVA, Director of the Department of Trade Negotiations, Ministry of Economic Development, for their constructive participation in this exercise.

“I would like to express my gratitude to our discussant, His Excellency Ambassador Didier CHAMBOVEY of Switzerland, for his insightful remarks touching on macroeconomic and other developments, remaining trade and trade-related challenges, and the role the TPRM can play in overcoming these.

“I would like to thank the delegations that took the floor for their valuable contributions to this Review. Members commended the Russian Federation for its stable and resilient economic performance since the previous Review in 2016, including measures taken to stabilize the banking sector. They particularly stressed the effective macroeconomic and monetary policies undertaken, and the demonstrated resilience to the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to volatile energy markets. Some Members commented on policies aimed at diversifying the economy and addressing structural impediments to economic growth.

“Members also positively noted a number of policy reforms undertaken by the Russian Federation affecting, among others, trade facilitation, import tariffs and export duties, competition policy, protection of IPRs, and supporting MSMEs. Regarding trade facilitation, Members highlighted reforms to improve customs procedures and requirements in areas such as risk management, automation, electronic documents, and reducing clearance times.

“While Members appreciated the overall reduction in MFN tariffs, they nevertheless encouraged the Russian Federation to further simplify the tariff structure. Members expressed the hope that the Russian Federation would continue to deepen the reforms and to ensure that any new policies, regulations, and reforms would be in line with its WTO commitments.

“Many Members stressed the Russian Federation’s strong involvement in, and support of, the multilateral trading system. They highlighted the constructive engagement of the Russian Federation in the discussions around WTO reform, preparations for MC12, fisheries subsidies negotiations, the four Joint Statement Initiatives, and trade and gender.

“Regarding the JSI on Services Domestic Regulations, some Members encouraged the Russian Federation to swiftly submit its draft schedule of commitments. Members also encouraged the Russian Federation to complete its process of accession to the Agreement on Government Procurement in the near future.

“Members expressed their desire for the Russian Federation to continue its leadership role at the WTO. In this regard, they welcomed the stated commitment by the Russian Federation to the rules-based multilateral trading system with the WTO at its core.

“Some Members also commended the Russian Federation for its support to developing countries, for example, through the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines. In this regard, Members also emphasized the importance of trade preferences under the Generalized System of Preferences.

“Import substitution, localization policies, and local content requirements, especially in the context of public procurement, were issues raised by many Members. They were particularly interested in the impact such policies can have on trade, FDI, productivity, and the integration of the Russian Federation into global value chains. Members encouraged the Russian Federation to review such policies in light of WTO principles and the process of its accession to the Agreement on Government Procurement. For some Members, these policies were representative of a broader set of policies that they perceived as discriminatory and reducing predictability, transparency, and competition.

“Members commended the Russian Federation for the reforms undertaken to improve the business and investment environment, for example, the introduction of a “regulatory guillotine” mechanism, and the establishment of key conditions for electronic commerce. Members also expressed concerns regarding the remaining challenges in this area.

“Thus, in addition to the recent increase in restrictions on FDI, Members identified several factors as potentially having a negative effect on the conditions of doing business in the Russian Federation. These include governance and other rule-of-law issues, the dominant position of the State in key sectors of the economy and the lack of transparency regarding state-owned enterprises, the existence of a high degree of concentration in certain sectors, and the use of various subsidies in favour of domestic firms. Concerns were voiced in relation to developments in specific services sectors, including financial services and maritime transport.

“While many Members expressed appreciation for the numerous notifications submitted, they nevertheless encouraged the Russian Federation to further improve the timeliness and completeness of its notification record, mentioning in particular notifications related to state trading enterprises, licensing procedures, agriculture, and technical regulations applied at the national level.

“Sanitary and phytosanitary measures and technical regulations have also received much attention in this Review. Thus, for example, several Members raised issues regarding inspection procedures for meat imports and the ‘Track and Trace’ regime. Some Members expressed concerns regarding the application of measures that they consider were not based on international standards, unsupported by scientific evidence, and without adequate transparency. Some Members stressed the need for more clarity regarding the relationship between EAEU rules and rules applied at the national level.

“Other issues of interest for some Members included the introduction of export bans on agricultural and wood products, the imposition of temporary export restrictions and the increased use of export tariff rate quotas since the beginning of the pandemic, and measures relating to transit.

“This Trade Policy Review was characterized by open and constructive discussions around the Russian Federation’s trade and trade-related policies. As highlighted by the Russian Head of Delegation, the discussant, and many Members, the TPRM represents an opportunity to improve policies going forward.

“I therefore hope that the authorities will find the questions, comments, and experiences shared during this Review useful in their efforts to review and design their policies. Members look forward to receiving the answers to outstanding questions from the Russian Federation within one month, at which point the Review will be successfully concluded.”

A number of the concerns raised were also raised in the 2016 review, indicating limited if any improvement on important issues (e.g., import substitution, localization policies, and local content requirements). Others reflect actions by the Russian Federation following the start of the pandemic (“the introduction of export bans on agricultural and wood products, the imposition of temporary export restrictions and the increased use of export tariff rate quotas since the beginning of the pandemic, and measures relating to transit.”).

The European Union raised many of these same issues in its statement at the TPR meeting on October 27, 2021. As the largest trading partner of the Russian Federation, the concerns raised likely reflect the broadest understanding of problems with the Russian Federation’s compliance with WTO obligations. EU Statement at the Trade Policy Review of the Russian Federation, 27 October 2021,

“Statement delivered by Ambassador João Aguiar Machado

“The EU welcomes this second Trade Policy Review of the Russian Federation, almost a decade since itsaccession to the WTO. We welcome the delegation of Russia, led by Ms. Ekaterina Mayorova (Director of theDepartment of trade negotiations, Ministry of Economic Development) and thank the Discussant, Ambassadorof Switzerland H.E. Didier Chambovey, for his remarks.

“The EU is the main trade partner of the Russian Federation, both for goods and for services, and its main source of foreign direct investment, with some 75% of total inward FDI. Bilateral trade in 2020 represented some 4.8%of EU foreign trade in goods, down from 6% at the time of the previous TPR.

“Back in 2016, at its first Trade Policy Review, the EU had emphasized that Russia’s WTO accession represented an opportunity for its modernisation. A chance to diversify its economy and reduce its reliance on raw materials and commodities, but equally to adjust its judicial and legal framework to bring in a more dynamic and responsive market. The European Union continues to hold that belief.

“Over the last few years, Russia’s efforts to play a constructive role in various areas in the WTO have not gone unnoticed – be it in its involvement in the Joint Statement Initiatives, or in its general support to achieve a meaningful MC12 including through its openness towards WTO reform in order for the organization to remain strong and credible. The EU looks forward in making progress in the different Joint Statement Initiatives, and in particular concluding the Domestic Regulation JSI in the margins of MC12. We hope that Russia will be in the position to submit their schedule of specific commitments as soon as possible, noting that the schedules of all participants are an essential component for a successful conclusion of this negotiation.

“However, the Russian Federation needs to redouble its commitment to the WTO. Today, we regret to
note that since its accession the Russian authorities have expanded, rather than reduced, the scope of its import substitution policy without any realistic furthering their pretended aim of localisation. This not only has a negative effect on trade with the EU but is done in most cases to the direct detriment of Russian consumers.

“In addition, the arguments used by the Russian authorities to justify protectionist policies namely that they are a direct consequence of the sanctions of individual economies on the Russian Federation – are questionable in our view. These Russian policies started immediately after Russia’s WTO accession and predate the political tensions that Russia highlights.

“Some of the specific questions tabled by the EU better explain the underlying concerns that we have. Allow me to highlight some:

“Several questions target the contradiction between the aspiration of the Russian Federation to become a member of the Government Procurement Agreement, and the reality of its practice. The ability of foreign bidders to participate in government procurement has been obstructed or effectively denied through
a growing body of regulations granting advantages to domestic products via price preferences, quotas, or exclusion of foreign goods and services.

“A large part of the Russian state’s presence in the economy – up to 20% of Russian GDP — corresponds to state-owned enterprises providing products and services in a commercial context. Despite the applicable WTO rules in this area, the Russian Federation has introduced such a growing body of restrictions as to make the participation of foreign bidders in tenders uneconomic, or a practical impossibility.

“As to export restrictions – under the rationale of preventing illegal logging and supporting domestic forest-based industries – the Russian Federation has announced a ban on the export of unprocessed wood from 2022. It remains unclear how the Russian Federation intends to reconcile these measures
with the schedule of its concessions, which include export tariff-rate quotas in some of the categories of wood covered by the announced ban.

“One primary mission of the WTO is to facilitate transparency. For this, a reliable notification practice is
imperative. The Russian Federation’s performance in this area leaves much to be desired. For example,
Russian Federation notifications in the area of technical barriers to trade have concerned only
Eurasian Economic Union-level measures. A number of Russian Federation national measures falling within the scope of the TBT Agreement entered into force without any notification whatsoever to the WTO, including those regarding the wines and spirits sector. Not a single measure adopted at the national level has been notified to the WTO.

“The same can be said about the exclusive rights in the area of foreign trade granted to certain entities
in the Russian Federation including, for example, for the export of natural gas. The Russian Federation
has failed, since its accession, to notify a single state-trading enterprise to the WTO. At the same time, around 50% of the EU’s imports from the Russian Federation are sold by a single export monopoly of natural gas. Let me also remark that, beyond its non-notification, this fact sits uneasily with the overall principles of the WTO, and in our view also with the long-term interests of Russia.

“To conclude, the EU welcomes the Russian Federation’s commitment in its report to an open, non-discriminatory and transparent multilateral trading system, and for a reform aimed at preserving the WTO’s role in maintaining and developing new trade rules. We commend this as a good foundation for the necessary efforts that Russia should undertake to abide by the spirit and the letter of its WTO commitments, and to build a more open, transparent and non-discriminatory business environment.

“Thank you.”

USTR’s 9th Report to Congress on the Russian Federation’s Compliance with WTO obligations

USTR Katherine Tai’s press release on the latest USTR report on the Russian Federation’s compliance with WTO obligations summarizes concerns that the U.S. has more than nine years after the Russian Federation became a WTO Member.

“USTR Announces 2021 Report on the Implementation and Enforcement of Russia’s WTO Commitments

“December 21, 2021

“WASHINGTON – The Office of the United States Trade Representative today released its ‘2021 Report on the Implementation and Enforcement of Russia’s World Trade Organization (WTO) Commitments.’

“‘This Report provides an overview of Russia’s continued departure from the guiding principles of the World Trade Organization, such as non-discriminatory practices, more open trade, predictability, transparency, and fair competition,’ said Ambassador Katherine Tai. ‘Failure to follow WTO norms, rules, and commitments puts American workers and businesses at an economic disadvantage and prevents them from competing on a level playing field. USTR will continue to work with like-minded partners and use the tools of the WTO to hold Russia accountable for its behavior in the multilateral trading system.’

“The Report highlights areas in which USTR has raised concerns about Russia’s compliance with its WTO
commitments, including:

“‘Russia continues to adopt and implement localization measures to provide preferential treatment to both domestically produced goods and services.’

“‘In the agriculture sector, Russia maintains non-science-based import restrictions and refuses to recognize other countries’ guarantees on exporting facilities.’

“‘Russia’s import substitution strategies for the IT sector, such as the ‘Digital Economy of the Russian Federation,’ also raise additional national treatment and import substitution concerns.’

“‘As economies around the world were forced to retract and retrench in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government of Russia exacerbated those trends by extending its control over the Russian economy and tightening restrictions on trade.’


“This report was prepared pursuant to section 201 of the Russia and Moldova Jackson-Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-208), which requires the U.S. Trade Representative to submit a report to the Committee on Finance of the U.S. Senate and the Committee on Ways and Means of the U.S. House of Representatives describing the commitments that Russia made upon entering the World Trade Organization on August 12, 2012, and assessing the extent to which Russia has implemented those commitments after 9 years of WTO membership.”

The USTR report is 62 pages in length and reviews an array of areas where the Russian Federation undertook commitments on acceding to the WTO and provides the USTR evaluation of whether there has been implementation to date. See 2021 Report on the Implementation and Enforcement of Russia’s WTO Commitments, December 2021,’s%20WTO%20Compliance.pdf. The table of contents (pages i-ii) reviews the topics reviewed and is copied below.

Implementation and Enforcement of Russia’s WTO Commitments
I. Introduction ………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 1
II. Executive Summary ………………………………………………………………………………………………. 2
III. Russia and the Customs Union/Eurasian Economic Union ………………………………… . 5
IV. Russia in the World Trade Organization ………………………………………………………………. 6
V. Import Regulation ………………………………………………………………………………………………… 7
A. Tariffs and Border Fees ………………………………………………………………………………………. 7
B. Customs Fees…………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 9
C. Customs Valuation …………………………………………………………………………………………….. 9
D. Trade Facilitation …………………………………………………………………………………………….. 10
E. Trading Rights …………………………………………………………………………………………………. 11
F. Quantitative Restrictions …………………………………………………………………………………… 12
G. Import Licensing ……………………………………………………………………………………………… 13
H. Trade Remedies ……………………………………………………………………………………………….. 15
VI. Export Regulation ……………………………………………………………………………………………….. 16
VII. Agriculture …………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 18
A. Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures …………………………………………………………………. 18
B. Domestic Supports and Export Subsidies ……………………………………………………………. 24
VIII. Internal Policies Affecting Trade ……………………………………………………………………….. 26
A. Non-Discrimination ………………………………………………………………………………………….. 26
B. Industrial Policy, Including Subsidies …………………………………………………………………. 29
C. State-Owned, -Controlled, and -Trading Enterprises …………………………………………….. 31
D. Pricing Policies ………………………………………………………………………………………………… 33
E. Standards, Technical Regulations and Conformity Assessments ……………………………. 34
F. Government Procurement ………………………………………………………………………………….. 37
IX. Services ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 39
A. Financial Services ……………………………………………………………………………………………. 40
B. Telecommunications ………………………………………………………………………………………… 41
C. Computer and Related Services …………………………………………………………………………. 41
D. Distribution Services ………………………………………………………………………………………… 43
E. Audio-Visual and Media Services ………………………………………………………………………. 43
X. Intellectual Property Rights ………………………………………………………………………………….. 44
A. Legal Framework …………………………………………………………………………………………….. 44
B. Enforcement ……………………………………………………………………………………………………. 47
XI. Investment ………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 50
A. Trade-Related Investment Measures …………………………………………………………………… 50
B. Special Economic Zones …………………………………………………………………………………… 53
XII. Rule of Law………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 53
A. Eurasian Economic Union …………………………………………………………………………………. 53
B. Transparency …………………………………………………………………………………………………… 54
C. Judicial Review ……………………………………………………………………………………………….. 56
XIII. Conclusion ………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 57

A portion of the Executive Summary section reveals U.S. concerns with Russia’s implementation of obligations. The excerpt (from pages 3-5) is copied below.

” Over the past year, Russia has continued its trajectory of an economy moving away from the guiding principles of the WTO: non-discrimination, freer trade, predictability, transparency, and fair competition. Rather, Russia maintains restrictive at-the-border measures, institutes behind-the-border measures to inhibit trade, and implements an industrial policy seemingly driven by the guiding principles of import substitution and forced localization.

“Russia maintains tariffs ranging from 25 percent to 40 percent on various industrial products imported from the United States in retaliation against tariffs imposed on U.S. imports of steel and aluminum articles under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, as amended. Russia also maintains a near complete ban on imports of agricultural goods from the United States and other WTO Members. Russia also continues to apply quantitative restrictions or outright bans on certain agricultural exports.

“In addition to these border measures, Russia maintains various behind-the-border measures that interrupt the smooth flow of global trade, such as outmoded import licensing requirements and a mandatory labeling regime. In 2021, Russia introduced yet another regime to monitor products, a traceability regime, that requires tracking consignments of goods (as opposed to individual goods subject to the mandatory labeling regime) through the chain of commerce in Russia. In the agriculture sector, Russia maintains non-science-based import restrictions and refuses to recognize other countries’ guarantees on exporting facilities.

“Compounding these at-the-border and behind-the-border restrictions, Russia continues to adopt and implement localization measures to provide preferential treatment to both domestically produced goods and services. In response, the United States, often working with other WTO Members, has raised concerns about Russia’s import substitution plans, subsidies (including those contingent on use of domestic over imported content), preferential taxes, preferential pricing mandates, prohibitions on purchasing imported goods and services, and domestic purchasing requirements, among others.

“The United States has also continued to raise concerns about Russia’s lack of transparency, manifested, for example, in its refusal to notify a single state trading enterprise and its delay (or complete refusal) to provide written answers to questions about its import substitution policies. The United States, joined by other WTO Members, will continue to remind Russia of its transparency obligations.

“The United States has urged Russia to meet its commitments with regard to the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights. In particular, the United States has reviewed Russia’s implementation of WTO commitments on data exclusivity, pharmaceutical patent protection, and collective management organizations. Moreover, Russia’s record on enforcement remains weak.

“Since early 2014, the U.S. Government has curtailed its bilateral engagement with Russia in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine, limiting USTR’s ability to raise directly with Russia our concerns about the trajectory of its trade policies. The sequestration resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic further limited engagement with Russian officials. Nevertheless, the interagency team of Russia specialists in the U.S. Government continued to monitor and evaluate Russia’s trade and investment policies and practices, and where and when possible, USTR continues to raise concerns in WTO meetings and on the margins of committee and council meetings to hold Russia accountable for its actions. As it has to date, if the United States finds that Russia’s actions appear to be inconsistent with its WTO commitments. The United States will investigate and use all appropriate means to resolve the matter and keep Russia’s markets open to U.S. exports.”

The Russian Federation’s reaction to U.S. report

The Russian Federation has rejected U.S. claims of non-implementation and calls attention to sanctions imposed on the Russian Federation by the U.S. and EU. See Tass Russian News Agency, ‘Beyond absurdity’: Diplomat slams US claims about Russia’s import substitution, December 24, 2021,

The Road Forward

Most of the concerns raised by the United States in its latest report on the Russian Federation’s implementation of WTO commitments mirror concerns that have been raised by the European Union and presumably others in the latest TPR of the Russian Federation. Moreover, some of the concerns have persisted since the Russian Federation first joined the WTO in 2012 as reflected in the first TPR from 2016 and earlier USTR reports to Congress on the Russian Federation’s implementation of WTO commitments. It is unclear whether the Russian Federation has any intention of addressing these longstanding and more current concerns.

The Chairman of the TPR for the Russian Federation in his concluding remarks and the EU Ambassador in his statement during the TPR highlighted areas where the Russian Federation has made positive contributions to the WTO such as in the fisheries negotiations and a number of the Joint Statement Initiatives and in supporting WTO reform. Thus, the Russian Federation has the potential to make some meaningful contributions in the areas where it is contributing. Such contributions will hopefully continue in 2022.

While Russia is treated as a market economy by the U.S. and the EU in trade remedy cases, the reality is that a large portion of Russia’s economy remains state owned or state directed. Such state ownership and direction are fundamentally at odds with the multilateral trading system and the concept of a level playing field. WTO reform is likely critical to address distortions caused by state ownership and control. While the Russian Federation is supportive of reform, it is unlikely to support meaningful reform on the state-owned/directed sector.

In addition, the many behind the border restrictions reviewed above simply contribute to the lack of meaningful access to the market of the Russian Federation for many WTO Members and have led to the size of the Russian Federation’s trade surplus. There does not appear any likelihood that the Russian Federation will meaningfully address these issues.

Perhaps the biggest unknown in 2022 is whether potential actions by the Russian Federation vis-a-vis one of its neighbors (Ukraine) will be implemented. The U.S., EU and others will certainly impose expanded sanctions against the Russian Federation if there is further encroachment by the Russian Federation into Ukraine. A souring of political relations would also likely cause a broader fallout for the trading system.

Whether the Russian Federation will be a meaningful contributor to supporting the global trading system is solely in the hands of the Russian Federation. 2022 is likely to be a year where the Russian Federation has some positive contributions but fails to address the longstanding concerns.

Forced labor and trade — U.S. Congress passes legislation to address China’s treatment of Uyghurs

In prior posts I have reviewed how concerns over perceived human rights abuses (particularly forced labor) have trade implications. See, e.g., April 27, 2021:  WTO and forced labor in cotton — Commentary by Amb. Dennis Shea, former Deputy U.S. Trade Representative,; March 24, 2021:  When human rights violations create trade distortions — the case of China’s treatment of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang,; January 25, 2021:  Child labor and forced labor in cotton production — is there a current WTO mandate to identify and quantify the distortive effects?,; January 24, 2021:  Forced labor and child labor – a continued major distortion in international trade for some products,

There have been a number of reports generated by various groups over the years on the depth of the human rights problems in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and the treatment of ethnic minorities — particularly the Uyghurs. See, e.g., Australian Strategic Policy Institute and International Cyber Policy Centre, Uyghurs for sale, ‘Re-education’, forced labour and surveillance beyond Xinjiang (authors Vicky Xiuzhong Xu with Danielle Cave, Dr James Leibold, Kelsey Munro, Nathan Ruser), Policy Brief Report No. 26/2020,

The U.S. State Department releases an annual report on Human Rights issues in other countries, including China. The 2020 report on China contains the following excerpts relevant to the human rights concerns in the Xinjiang Region and the question of forced labor.



“* * *

“Genocide and crimes against humanity occurred during the year against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang. These crimes were continuing and included: the arbitrary imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty of more than one million civilians; forced sterilization, coerced abortions, and more restrictive application of China’s birth control policies; rape; torture of a large number of those arbitrarily detained; forced labor; and the imposition of draconian restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression, and freedom of movement.

“Significant human rights issues included: arbitrary or unlawful killings by the government; forced disappearances by the government; torture by the government; harsh and life-threatening prison and detention conditions; arbitrary detention by the government, including the mass detention of more than one million Uyghurs and other members of predominantly Muslim minority groups in extrajudicial internment camps and an additional two million subjected to daytime-only ‘re-education’ training; political prisoners; politically motivated reprisal against individuals outside the country; the lack of an independent judiciary and Communist Party control over the judicial and legal system; arbitrary interference with privacy; pervasive and intrusive technical surveillance and monitoring; serious restrictions on free expression, the press, and the internet, including physical attacks on and criminal prosecution of journalists, lawyers, writers, bloggers, dissidents, petitioners, and others as well as their family members, and censorship and site blocking; interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including overly restrictive laws that apply to foreign and domestic nongovernmental organizations; severe restrictions and suppression of religious freedom; substantial restrictions on freedom of movement; refoulement of asylum seekers to North Korea, where they have a well founded fear of persecution; the inability of citizens to choose their government; restrictions on political participation; serious acts of corruption; forced sterilization and coerced abortions; forced labor and trafficking in persons; severe restrictions on labor rights, including a ban on workers organizing or joining unions of their own choosing; and child labor.

“* * *

“Section 7. Workers’ Rights

“* * *

“b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

“The law prohibits forced and compulsory labor. The law provides a range of penalties depending on the circumstances, including imprisonment, criminal detention, administrative blacklisting, and fines. Penalties were commensurate with those for analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping. The law was not effectively enforced.

“The PRC used state-sponsored forced labor in detention camps, prisons, and factories in and outside Xinjiang.

“There is evidence of forced labor exacted by the use of force, threats of detention or other abusive practices against workers laboring in the camps, large industrial parks, and residential locations in Xinjiang. There are also reports of individuals ‘graduating’ from ‘vocational training centers’ and then being compelled to work at nearby facilities or sent to factories in other parts of China.

“China’s State Council issued a white paper on employment and labor rights in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on September 17, 2020, in which it acknowledged that the Chinese Government has provided ‘vocational training’ to an average of 1.29 million workers in Xinjiang every year from 2014 to 2019.

“Xinjiang government documents indicate the existence of a large-scale PRC government plan, known as the ‘mutual pairing assistance’ program, where 19 cities and provinces, mostly in eastern China, have established factories in Xinjiang. There is significant risk that these factories are using camp labor and other exploitative labor practices.

“Persons detained in internment camps in Xinjiang (see section 6) were subjected to forced labor. The detainees worked in factories producing garments, hair accessories, and electronics and in agricultural production, notably picking and processing cotton and tomatoes. In March an Australian Strategic Policy
report stated the PRC government transferred Uyghur and other ethnic minorities from Xinjiang to technology, clothing, and automotive factories across the country; conditions for many transferred workers strongly suggested forced labor. A New York Times investigation published on April 15 stated some Chinese companies used forced labor to produce personal protective equipment. In December a Center for Global Policy report detailed the PRC’s coercive labor training and transfer schemes that led to forced labor of nearly half a million people in the Xinjiang cotton harvest.

“A December 2020 Jamestown report used evidence from public and nonpublic Chinese government and academic sources indicating that labor transfers of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang to other regions and other provinces are part of a state-run scheme to forcibly uproot them, assimilate them, and reduce their population. Using Chinese government documents, the report estimates that up to 1.6 million transferred laborers are estimated to be at risk of being subjected to forced labor as a result of the government policy that intends to ‘displace’ populations deemed ‘problematic’ by the government.

“Chinese-flagged fishing vessels subjected workers from other countries to forced labor. On August 26, an Indonesian social media outlet posted a video of three Indonesian fisherman pleading for rescue from a PRC-flagged fishing vessel. The fishermen claimed they were subjected to physical violence, forced to work 20-hour days, and not paid for their work.

“Although in 2013 the NPC officially abolished the re-education through labor system, an arbitrary system of administrative detention without judicial review, numerous media outlets and NGOs reported forced labor continued in prisons as well as drug rehabilitation facilities where individuals continued to be detained without judicial process. An August, Epoch Times article stated prison labor was used in apparel, artificial flowers, and cosmetic production in Shenyang, Liaoning. There were reports of forced labor in other provinces in the production of items such as bricks, coal, and electronics.

“Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at”

U.S. Department of State, CHINA 2020 HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT, pages 1, 78, 81-82 (March 2021 updated in November),

U.S. law for more than 90 years has banned the importation of goods made with forced labor. The problem of forced labor is not limited to China and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection in recent years has taken action to deny entry to imports from a number of countries of goods suspected of being made with forced labor. See, e.g., Testimony of Jennifer (JJ) Rosenbaum, JD, Executive Director, Global Labor Justice – International Labor Rights Forum, Before the House Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade, The Global Challenge of Forced Labor in Supply Chains: Strengthening Enforcement and Protecting Workers, Wednesday July 21, 2021, (citing various USCBP Withhold Release Orders under Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930 on products from Malawi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Turkmenistan, Malaysia as well as China).

With the broader concern about the perceived extreme human rights abuses against the Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and reports of dozens of multinationals apparently “benefitting” from forced labor of Uyghurs, Congress held hearings in 2021 and in December passed legislation directed at improving the enforcement of Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930 including creating a presumption of use of forced labor for products coming from Xinjiang Province. See, e.g., Inside U.S. Trade’s World Trade Online, Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act heads to Biden’s desk, December 16, 2021,

The U.S. Trade Representative issued a statement on December 16th about the legislation going to the President.

“This bill represents our country’s commitment to protecting human dignity and leading the fight against forced labor. We have a moral and economic imperative to eliminate this practice from our global supply chains, including those that run through Xinjiang, China, and exploit Uyghurs and other ethnic
and religious minorities.

“This fall in London, the G7 trade ministers released a Joint Statement affirming our belief that there is no place for forced labor in a rules-based multilateral trading system. By passing this bill with strong, bipartisan support, the United States can set an example for the world to follow.

“I am grateful to Congress for its leadership and look forward to continuing this necessary work with our trading partners and allies to ensure every worker is treated with respect and dignity – no matter where they live.”


The bill as passed by the House and Senate is enclosed below. It is expected that President Biden will sign the legislation in the coming days.


The legislation consists of six sections. The first is a statement of policy including the strengthening the porhibition against importation of goods made with forced labor, leading international efforts to end forced labor, coordinating with Canada and Mexico implementation of Art. 23.6 of the USMCA prohibiting the importation of goods manufactured with forced labor, working to end human trafficking, regarding the prevention of atrocities as in the U.S. national interest, and addressing gross violations of human rights in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region through diplomatic channels, multilateral institutions, by using all authorities available to the U.S. government including visa and financial sanctions, export restrictions and import controls.

Section 2 details a strategy to enforce Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930 (prohibiting the importation of goods made through forced labor in Xinjiang). There will be opportunity for public comments, a public hearing and development of a strategy by the Formed Labor Enforcement Task force (established by Sec. 741 of the USMCA Implementation Act) in consultation with the Department of Commerce and the Director of National Intelligence. The strategy will include elements that assess the risk of importing prohibited goods from Xinjiang and procedures to be implemented to reduce the risks, a factual description of various practices in China on forced labor including a list of entities using forced labor or working with the government on forced labor, a list of products made with such labor, a list of entities that exported such goods to the U.S., information on third parties using such goods, a list of high-priority sector (including at a minimum cotton, tomatoes and polysilicon) and other matters including additional resources needed by USCBP to enforce the law and guidance to importers. Within 180 days of enactment of the legislation, the strategy report shall be submitted to the appropriate Congressional Committees. The strategy will be updated annually.

Section 3 creates a rebuttable presumption that imports of goods mined, produced or manufactured in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region is produced with forced labor. There are exceptions but CBP needs to submit a report to appropriate Congressional Committees within 30 days after determining an exception applies. The section takes effect 180 days after enactment of the legislation.

Section 4 deals with having a diplomatic strategy to address forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The Secretary of State will submit a strategy within 90 days to the appropriate Congressional Committees including plans to enhance bilateral and multilateral coordination among other matters.

Section 5 deals with sanctions relating to forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The President is to identify any official of China’s Government who is determined to be responsible for serious human rights abuses in connection with forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and shall impose sanctions on such individuals.

Section 6 sunsets Sections 3-5 eight years after enactment or when the President determines the Chinese Government has ended the human rights abuses in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, which is earlier.


Historically, human rights issues have not been viewed through a trade lense. Many human rights abuses are not easily addressed through trade and may have marginal trade effects. That is not true of the issue of forced labor which affects the costs of goods and services where such labor is involved either in an end product or service or in an upstream product or service.

The United States under the Biden Administration is working to address some of the trade distortions flowing from forced labor as can be seen in the ongoing Fisheries Subsidies negotiations. The human rights issues reportedly flowing from treatment of Uyghur and other minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region have caused concerns in many countries. Treasury, Commerce, Customs and Border Protection are all taking actions to address trade distortions caused by forced labor whether from China or elsewhere. The legislation sent to the President last week (that will likely be signed by President Biden by the end of the year) is an important step in raising awareness and trying to address the underlying situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

While China is reacting negatively and now has legislative tools to take retaliation (regardless of WTO inconsistency), the U.S. and other countries have to address the human rights problems flagged in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and ensure that trade distortions from forced labor are neutralized.

20 Years of China’s Membership in the WTO — a brief critique

On December 11, 2001, China became the 143rd Member of the WTO. There is little doubt that China has benefitted from Membership, and that global trade has been heavily influenced by China’s rapid growth. There have been numerous programs marking the milestone of 20 years including yesterday’s (December 10) high level forum at the WTO and a joint program by the Washington International Trade Association and the Asia Society Policy Institute on December 9.

A WTO press release reviews the High-Level Forum event and summarizes views of the major participants. See WTO Press Release, High-Level Forum marks 20 years of China’s WTO membership, 10 December 2021, The full statement of Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was made available as well. See Remarks by DG Okonjo-Iweala, 20 Years of China’s WTO Membership: Integration & Development — High-level Opening session (virtual), 10 December 2021, The DG’s statement lays out many of the positive developments for China from membership and notes the belief of some other WTO Members that China can and needs to do more, a position commented on by former DG Pascal Lamy and by former USTR negotiator Wendy Cutler. A portion of DG Okonjo-Iweala’s statement is copied below.

“For the WTO, welcoming China marked a significant step towards becoming a truly ‘world’ organization. Over a fifth of the world population — 1.3 billion producers and consumers — gained full entry into the multilateral trading system.

“For other WTO members, China’s accession meant the promise of more predictable and mutually beneficial trading relations with a large and fast-growing economy.

“Accession to the WTO is never easy, and China’s accession process was particularly demanding. China requested to resume its status as a contracting party to the GATT in 1986 — 15 years before its eventual accession to the WTO. Over that time, China and its partners together:

“Convened 38 Working Party meetings;

“Reached 44 bilateral market access agreements, the terms of which went on to be multilateralized; and

“Produced over 750 pages of legal text that spell out China’s WTO commitments.  

“The reforms China was asked to make could not have been easy at the time, requiring difficult changes by Chinese policymakers and within the Chinese economy. But looking back, China’s determination to pursue WTO membership as the cornerstone of its economic liberalization strategy has been fully vindicated.

“China has become the textbook case for how global trade integration can drive growth and development. The country’s economic rise has lifted millions out of poverty, not only within China but also in China’s trading partners across the developing world.

“In 2001, China’s GDP was $1.3 trillion. By 2020, it had reached $14.7 trillion. This is really an astonishing improvement. China’s economy has performed well through the pandemic, and the IMF expects Chinese output to grow by 8% in 2021 and by 5.6% in 2022. China is now by some margin the world’s largest manufacturing producer and exporter.

“People in China have seen dramatic increases in living standards. Per capita incomes, in purchasing power terms, have risen from around US$3,400 in 2000 to US$16,200 today in 2020. Extreme poverty has all but been eliminated.

“China is a major destination for foreign direct investment, and has become a significant source of outward investment itself . The stock of FDI in China has risen 10-fold – from about 200 billion US dollars in the year 2000 to close to 2 trillion US dollars in 2020. Meanwhile, China’s stock of outward FDI has soared to 2.3 trillion US dollars, 84 times higher than at the time of its accession.”

The December 9th virtual event hosted by WITA and ASPI had interviews with former USTR Charlene Barshevsky and Minister Long Yongtu (former Vice Minister and Chief Negotiator for China’s Accession). There were also remarks by Amb. Xiangchen Zhang one of the current Deputy Director-Generals and a past Permanent Representative of China to the WTO. There was also a panel of experts from various organizations, many of whom served at USTR at one time or another. The link for the video of the event can be found in WITA’s Friday Focus on Trade, Volume 250, December 10, 2021. See Based on the deep concerns within the United States on dealing with a host of ongoing systemic problems with China, one of the questions addressed by the panelists and by Amb. Barshevsky was whether it was a misstake for the United States to support China’s accession to the WTO in 2001. Most U.S. speakers supported China’s accession although various concerns were expressed.

A brief critique

Neither event explored to any extent challenges posed by China’s accession or ongoing economic system and behavior. This is perhaps not surprising at the WTO where the event was more celebratory in nature even if cautions were raised by non-Chinese speakers.

But the WITA/ASPI virtual event also tended to overlook many of the core problems. Amb. Barshevsky provided a misleading choice the U.S. and others had back in 2001. The choices were not limited to accession or no accession as suggested by Amb. Barshevsky. The third option that could have been pursued would have been consistent with accessions for most other countries — continue negotiations until China’s system was basically consistent with WTO requirements.

Specifically, For most countries seeking accession, the process goes on until existing Members are comfortable that the acceding Member’s economic and legal system is largely consistent with WTO norms. This was not true of the decision to let China into the WTO in 2001. A longer accession process could have ensured that the reforms needed were in fact undertaken and implemented.

While China had undertaken many reforms prior to accession, there were so many remaining issues needing to be addressed that a variety of special rules were imposed on China to permit Members to monitor China’s progress in the necessary massive remaining reforms and limit damage to other Members while the reforms took place. While most protocols of accession are a few pages at most, China’s protocol (including Annexes) was 102 pages. See ACCESSION OF THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA, Decision of 10 November 2001, WT/L/432. China greatly resented the China-specific provisions that were included in the Protocol (the annual trade policy review for the first eight years and a final one at year ten; the special safeguard provisions and the articles dealing with special rules while China’s economy remained state-controlled). China worked to block implementation of the “discriminatory” provisions and largely refused to permit the annual trade policy reviews to be conducted as they should have been and discouraged trading partners from pursuing special safeguard cases.

The core issue for the U.S. and others with China was whether China would adopt the far reaching reforms that would be needed to have China’s economy operate on market principles. While China had made some changes prior to joining and made others after joining, the core issue troubling many WTO Members in 2021 is the massive distortions that occur in a wide range of industries through state involvement, control and direction. As former Deputy Director-General Alan Wolff has raised on a number of occasions, the multilateral trading system requires convergence of economic systems not coexistence. See October 16, 2021:  What role China could play in WTO reform — possibilities are real but chances of a positive role are not,; November 10, 2020:  The values of the WTO – do Members and the final Director-General candidates endorse all of them?, Ensuring convergence would have been possible during the accession process if continued. It is nearly impossible after accession where a Member refuses to pursue that path as is the case with China.

The same could be said for problems with transparency of subsidy regimes, problems with human rights issues affecting trade, the proliferation of products subject to export taxes, forced technology transfer and many more topics of ongoing concern to U.S., EU and other businesses. See, e.g., March 24, 2021:  When human rights violations create trade distortions — the case of China’s treatment of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, Monitoring progress prior to accession could have significantly reduced the problems that have plagued Members for the last twenty years.

And there are, of course, other troubling issues of China’s participation in the WTO, such as their use of threats, coercion and punitive conduct towards countries who make statements or take positions with which China disagrees. The problems Australia has faced from China on a wide range of products is but one example. See, e.g., December 22, 2020:  China’s trade war with Australia – unwarranted and at odds with China’s portrayal of itself as a strong supporter of the WTO, Similarly, their use of retaliation without WTO authorization is another serious problem in their actions and undermines the international rule of law.

So bottom line, China has been a Member of the WTO for 20 years and has benefitted enormously from its membership. But its different economic system and failures on a host of transparency and other obligations and its willingness to abuse other Members through threats, coercion and unauthorized retaliation are major reasons the WTO is in trouble. China’s behavior is also causing many historic supporters of liberalized trade to rethink options.

As the world marks the 20th anniversary of China’s joining the WTO, it is important to understand just how far from the objective of accession on terms that would ensure a level playing field reality has proven to be. Without a change in approach by China, the road forward for the multilateral trading system is uncertain at best.

Conclusion of Joint Statement Initiative on Services Domestic Regulation — a win for the WTO and services trade

For an organization seeking to regain relevance and facing continued delays in holding its 12th Ministerial Conference because of restrictions on travel from increased COVID-19 cases, the conclusion of the Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) on Services Domestic Regulation through the issuance of a declaration on December 2 was an important accomplishment. Sixty-seven WTO Members agreed to a reference paper and a process for amending services schedules for the participants over the next months with benefits accruing to all WTO Members and with transition periods for developing and least developed countries. See Declaration on the Conclusion of Negotiations on Services Domestic Regulation, 2 Deember 2021,WT/L/1129 (includes Annex 1, Reference Paper on Services Domestic Regulation, 26 November 2021, INF/SDR/2 and Annex 2S, Schedules of Specific Commitments, 2 December 2021, INF/SDR/3/Rev.1). The 67 WTO Members participating the JSI reportedly account for 90% of services trade. The 67 countries are Albania, Argentina, Australia, Kingdom of Bahrain, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, European Union (and member states), Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Republic of Korea, Liechtenstein, Mauritius, Mexico, Republic of Moldova, Montenegro, New Zealand, Nigeria, North Macedonia, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Russian Federation, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States and Uruguay.

According to the WTO press release on the completion of negotiations, the aim of the JSI was “slashing administrative costs and creating a more transparent operating environment for service providers hoping to do business in foreign markets.” WTO Press Release, Negotiations on services domestic regulation conclude successfully in Geneva, 2 December 2021,

It is the first agreement at the WTO barring discrimination between men and women. WT/L/1129 at 10 (Annex I, para. 22(d), development of measures — “such measures do not discriminate between men and women.”).

The WTO and OECD released a short paper looking at the benefits to global services trade through a successful conclusion to the JSI on services domestic regulation. The study estimated that savings to service providers and their customers would be around $150 billion/year. See World Trade Organization and OECD, Services Domestic Regulation in the WTO: Cutting Red Tape, Slashing Trade Costs and Facilitating Services Trade, 19 November 2021, The four “key messages” in the study (page 1) are copied below.

“Key messages

“• Improving business climate: At the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference, the Joint Initiative on Services
Domestic Regulation will conclude negotiations on a set of good regulatory practices with a focus on procedural aspects of licensing and authorization procedures for services suppliers. By enhancing the transparency, efficiency, and predictability of regulatory systems, the disciplines on services domestic regulation that the Joint Initiative has negotiated will address the practical challenges that affect the ability of businesses and suppliers to operate.

“• Facilitating services trade: Building on efforts to identify and disseminate good regulatory practice, an
increasing number of “new generation” trade agreements have moved beyond the removal of quantitative restrictions and discriminatory measures to include a comprehensive set of disciplines largely equivalent to those developed by the Joint Initiative. At the same time, economies at all levels of income have also implemented reforms with a view to making their regulatory environment more trade facilitative for services businesses.

“• Lowering trade costs and generating broader trade benefits: Through the full implementation of the
disciplines on services domestic regulation, economies can lower trade costs and reap substantial trade
benefits: annual trade cost savings could be in the range of USD 150 billion, with important gains in financial services, business services, communications and transport services. Moreover, a positive correlation between the implementation of services domestic regulation measures and services trade by all four modes of supply, as well as a more active engagement of economies in global value chains, hints to even broader economic benefits.

“• Widespread gains beyond participants: Exporters from all WTO members will benefit from the improved regulatory conditions when they trade with participants of the Joint Initiative. However, significantly larger benefits will accrue to WTO members that are implementing the disciplines themselves in their internal regulatory frameworks.”

The study provides a summary of improved disciplines the 67 WTO Members have identified in the reference paper. The improved disciplines are grouped under transparency, legal certainty and predictability, regulatory quality and facilitation. See id at 2.

While the estimated savings once fully implemented is small in comparison to global services trade ($150 billion of 2019 estimated trade of $6.1 trillion (2.6%)(UNCTAD, 2020 Handbook of Statistics, page 33, data for 2019, as noted in the WTO press release, it is the first update of WTO rules on services in more than a quarter century. The negotiations had three co-chairs — Costa Rica, Australia and the European Union. Part of the EU’s statement by Ambassador Aguiar Machado from the December 2 meeting and announcement of the declaration is provided below. See Services Domestic Regulation Joint Initiative Meeting to conclude the negotiations (co-hosted by Costa Rica, the European Union and Australia), 2 December 2021, Geneva,

“Today, we are following up on a joint commitment we collectively took two years ago in Paris to finalize the negotiations that had started with the Joint Statement of Buenos Aires in 2017. Since then, several new Members have joined the group and a tremendous amount of work has been done by our negotiators under the valued Chairmanship of Costa Rica. In particular, warm welcome to the Philippines and Bahrain who joined our negotiations most recently.

“We are here today to conclude our negotiations in this JSI and on the Reference Paper with domestic regulation disciplines. This step will allow us to commence our respective domestic procedures required for the certification of our improved schedules of commitments, which will give legal effect to the negotiated disciplines.

“The work on services domestic regulation is of critical importance. It is the first WTO deliverable in the area of trade in services since a very long time. Our additional commitments for domestic regulation will benefit all other WTO Members by giving them the reassurance that we will apply good regulatory and administrative practices also to their service suppliers. 

“Good regulatory practices are crucial for the well-functioning of today’s economy. I believe that the clear rules on transparency and authorisation in the area of services – that were agreed as part of this initiative – will facilitate trade in services significantly. Especially for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises who do not have the same resources and experience to cope with complex processes as their larger competitors.

“The services sector has been hit hard by the pandemic – as other parts of our economy. The adoption and implementation of the disciplines of the reference paper will reduce trade costs for service suppliers substantially and thus help the sector in its recovery. It is a sector where women entrepreneurs often play an important role. The reference paper recognises this role by ensuring non-discrimination between men and women in authorisation processes. This is the first rule of this kind in the WTO.

“Delivering on the WTO services agenda is a long overdue objective we all have. Since Buenos Aires, we have collectively developed a pragmatic approach to negotiations. We have allowed groups of interested Members to advance negotiations on some important issues – through open, inclusive and transparent processes.

“Today, we prove that this plurilateral approach can lead to tangible results. This demonstrates that the Joint Initiative model is a viable one. A large and diverse group of WTO Members can work together towards a common objective, overcome their differences, show flexibility and agree on tangible results that are important for businesses and consumers.

“I believe that this Joint Initiative can be a source of inspiration for work in other areas, allowing interested Members to move ahead while ensuring that the outcome, in its substance and its form, remains supportive of and strengthens the multilateral trading system.”

Since the collapse of the Doha Development talks in 2008, the reality has been that most progress on trade talks have taken place in bilateral, and plurilateral settings. The sole meaningful exception was the completion of the Trade Facilitation Agreement which hopefully will be supplemented by a completion to the Fisheries Subsidies negotiations in the near future. Stating at the WTO’s 11th Ministerial, many WTO Members have started Joint Statement Initiatives to seek progress on important issues facing the trading system.

As noted in earlier posts, India and South Africa (WTO Members who are not participating in any of the Joint Statement Initiatives) have raised objections to the use of JSIs to update rules claiming such approaches are inconsistent with existing WTO requirements. See, e.g., November 17, 2021:  The role of plurilaterals in the WTO’s future,

The view of the participants in the services domestic regulation JSI is that existing WTO provisions permit the updating of service schedules by Members. The reference paper will apply to those who have participated or who later accept the reference paper. New obligations taken on by the 67 Members are applied by them on an MFN basis to all WTO trading partners.

The Declaration on Services Domestic Regulation and actions to implement it will be an early test of whether the WTO can proceed to update rules through open plurilaterals. While one can expect continued objections from India and South Africa, the path to renewed relevancy for the WTO will almost certainly run through finding room for open plurilaterals.

WTO-IMF COVID-19 Vaccine Trade Tracker provides useful information in analyzing vaccine equity

On November 22, 2021, the WTO and IMF announced and released their COVID-19 Vaccine Trade Tracker. See WTO News Release, WTO, IMF launch Vaccine Trade Tracker, 22 November 2021, While the data on access to vaccines is not as granular as the UNICEF COVID Vaccine Dashboard, the new tracker provides data under six topics: summary, exports (options being by producing economy or by supply arrangement type), imports (options being by income group or by continent), total supply (options being by producing economy or by vaccine type), supply to continents (Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania, South America) and vaccination status (options being by income group and by continent). Data in the initial release are through October 31, 2021. Income groups are the World Bank’s groupings — Low income, lower-middle income, upper middle income and high income.

In recent posts I have noted that much of the discussion on vaccine equity focuses on access and affordability but doesn’t necessarily help understand widely different outcomes for countries or territories that are at the same stage of economic development. See November 22, 2021:  Trade and Health at the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference, The WTO-IMF Tracker doesn’t include the identification of countries/territories within income groups but rather reports on the entire grouping. The World Bank’s 2020 listing is the most recent. See World Bank, GNI per capita, Atlas method (current US$),; November 15, 2021:  The folly of self-selection as a developing country at the WTO,

Of the listed producing countries involved in exports of COVID-19 vaccines all are WTO Members. The EU, USA, Japan and Republic of Korea are listed as high income countries by the World Bank though Korea has treated itself as a developing country at the WTO. China, the Russian Federation and South Africa are included as upper middle income countries by the World Bank based on per capita GNI, though both China and South Africa claim developing country status at the WTO. India is listed as a lower-middle income country by the World Bank and claims developing country status at the WTO. There is a small amount of exports from other countries not broken out by individual country n the WTO-IMF tracker.

On total supply (“Total supply contains both exported and domestically delivered doses), China is the largest producing country with a total supply of 4.0811 billion doses of which 1.3294 billion doses have been exported. The European Union is the second largest producer with a total supply of 1.7077 billion doses producers of which 876.5 million have been exported. India is the third largest producers with total supply of 1.3608 billion doses of which just 66.0 million doses have been exported. The United States is fourth with total supply of 941.1 million doses and exports of 300.8 million doses. Others have much smaller total supplies and exports.

The vast majority of exports have been through bilateral deals (77.5%). The second largest source of exports has been doses contracted via COVAX (8.1%). Because of several major problems COVAX experienced from suppliers — the largest being the shut down of exports from India for much of 2021 — COVAX has been unable to supply the large volume of vaccine doses in 2021 to low income and lower middle income countries that had been planned on. The third largest source of exports was donations via COVAX (7.5%), followed by direct donations from producing countries to receiving countries (6.1%) and supply via the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (“AVAT”)(0.8%).

The vaccination status data (item six in the Tracker) is helpful in identifying regions with the greatest needs as well as the breakout by World Bank income level. However, because of the lack of granularity to the individual country or territory, the data don’t help understand the large differences between members in the same continent or in the same income grouping.

By continent, all continents except Africa have received more than 50 courses of doses per 100 people (with North America the highest at 81.4 and Europe at 76.2). Africa was just 11.2 courses per 100 people. All but Africa have more than 50% of the population with at least one dose administered. Africa was just 8.7%. And all but Africa have more than 40% of the population fully vaccinated. Africa was only 5.8%. Thus, there is a need to expand availability of vaccine doses to most African countries

When vaccination status is examined by income level, high income and upper middle income countries and territories have much larger vaccination rates than lower middle income and low income. On courses of vaccines per 100 people, high income countries were at 89.5, upper middle income countries averaged 74.8, lower middle income countries were at just 34.8 and low income countries were at just 7.0. Similar discrepancies exist on percent with at least one dose administered and percent fully vaccinated. The inability of COVAX to receive the volumes of doses contracted for in 2021 and the slowness of donations for richer countries are certainly core reasons for the differences in doses for lower middle income and low income countries.

Yet there are major discrepancies among countries or territories in the same continent or same income grouping. I identified a few in yesterday’s post. See November 22, 2021:  Trade and Health at the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference, For example, Morocco is classified as a lower middle income country by the WTO but had the highest level of administered vaccines/100 people in Africa (136.5 (assumed to be 68.25 courses of doses/100 people)) while South Africa, classified as an upper middle income country had a rate of administered vaccine doses less than 1/3 that of Morocco (41.4 (assumed to be 20.7 courses of doses/100 people). Similarly, two low income countries as classified by the World Bank have drastically different administered doses despite nearly identical per capita GNIs and both being countries in Africa. Specifically, Zimbabwe’s per capital GNI in 2020 was $1,090 and yet they had administered 42.3 COVID vaccine doses/100 people. Cameroon, with a per capita GNI in 2020 of $1,100, had COVID vaccines administered of only 2.4/100 people.


The WTO-IMF COVID-19 Vaccine Trade Tracker provides very useful information, although much is at a continent or income group level. It appears likely that the tracker will be updated only monthly. If not being considered, the designers of the new tracker should provide a link to a data base that provides the type of data shown in the aggregate for each country or territory. Such data would permit a better understanding of differences within continents and within income groups and potentially improve the ability to improve vaccine equity moving forward. It is also possible to update the tracker more frequently than once a month, though some charts, etc. are fine with monthly updates. .

Trade and Health at the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference

An area of focus the last two years at the WTO has been addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. This has included various statements from Members, monitoring by the Secretariat of export and import actions either impeding or expediting the flow of medical goods and services, and various proposals for actions to address the pandemic or for future preparation. The proposal for a waiver from various TRIPS obligations from India and South Africa (and now supported by a range of countries) is one proposal. A number of countries (Ottawa Group) have put forward a proposal for a trade and health initiative to permit a more rapid response by WTO Members in the future. See COVID-19 AND BEYOND: TRADE AND HEALTH, COMMUNICATION FROM AUSTRALIA, BRAZIL, CANADA, CHILE, THE EUROPEAN UNION, JAPAN,
KENYA, REPUBLIC OF KOREA, MEXICO, NEW ZEALAND, NORWAY, SINGAPORE AND SWITZERLAND, 24 November 2020, WT/GC/223; November 27, 2020:  The Ottawa Group’s November 23 communication and draft elements of a trade and health initiative, The WTO Director-General and the Members have engaged in a number of meetings with other multilateral organizations and the private sector exploring options for expanding production of COVID-19 vaccines and expanding distribution to countries in need.

Amb. David Walker of New Zealand has been tasked to work with Members to see if a declaration on trade and health can be agreed to at the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference that starts on November 30.

A former Deputy Director-General of the WTO, Alan Wolff, provided his thoughts on likely outcomes at the 12th Ministerial during a WITA virtual event on November 18th and opined that a declaration on trade and health was likely only if there was some resolution of the waiver proposal for vaccines. See PIIE, Alan Wm. Wolff, Defining Success for MC12, 18 November 2021, Presented at WITA, slides 5, 7, 10-11. Slide 10 is presented below.

I have written before on the challenges of the waiver of TRIPs obligations proposal put forward by India and South Africa. See, e.g., November 2, 2020:  India and South Africa seek waiver from WTO intellectual property obligations to add COVID-19 – issues presented,

The EU and some others have not agreed to a waiver but have focused on making compulsory licensing more effective. See, e.g., DRAFT GENERAL COUNCIL DECLARATION ON THE TRIPS AGREEMENT AND PUBLIC HEALTH IN THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF A PANDEMIC, COMMUNICATION FROM THE EUROPEAN UNION TO THE COUNCIL FOR TRIPS, 18 June 2021, IP/C/W/681.

Thus, the outcome on trade and health heading into the Ministerial is uncertain. See WTO News Release, Members to continue discussion on a common COVID-19 IP response up until MC12, 19 November 2021,

A driver behind the waiver proposal has been the limited availability of vaccines to least developed and some developing countries. Vaccine equity is the shorthand term for the concerns about availability and affordability of vaccines for all people. While the issue of availability and access is complicated and beyond just WTO competence, the world’s vaccine manufacturers have ramped up capacity and production, governments have belatedly gotten involved in expanding donations and some of the major bottlenecks to getting vaccines to COVAX in 2021 appear to be resolved going forward, though many LDCs and developing countries will not get large volumes of vaccines until 2022.

The pandemic and the challenges of ramping up production and ensuring access to all people has been the subject of dozens of my prior posts. See, e.g., October 12, 2021: See WTO Information Notes on COVID-19 Vaccine Production and Potential Bottlenecks,; September 27, 2021:  Global efforts to expand COVID-19 vaccine production and distribution — an all hands on deck effort being led by the U.S. and EU with active support of many governments and others,; May 6, 2021:  COVID-19 vaccines — role of WTO and developments at May 5-6, 2021 General Council meeting on TRIPS Waiver,

Prior to 2021, global capacity for all vaccines was estimated at 5 billion doses/year. In 2021, COVID-19 vaccine production alone will be around 10 billion doses. As of November 20, 2021, UNICEF’s COVID Vaccine Market Dashboard shows 8.624 billion doses delivered to countries and territories of which COVAX deliveries were 524 million (and 565 million delivered or cleared for shipment). (visited on November 20, 2021).

Administration of vaccine doses to populations has been less than doses delivered. Data from Blomberg’s COVID Vaccine Tracker as of November 19, 2021 9:34 a.m., shows 7.63 billion doses administered. (visited November 20, 2021). From the Vaccine Tracker data, there are a large number of countries or territories (95) that have administered 100 or more doses to every 100 people in the country. As major vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna need two shots, and as some countries have started supplying boosters, data are not necessarily comparable across countries in terms of percentage of people vaccinated. But the doses administered per 100 people is a reasonable measure of equitable distribution. A review of the data do show large differences in administration of doses. However, which countries or territories have administered large numbers of doses/100 people is not tied to a country or territory having vaccine production capacity, nor is it tied to level of income in the country or territory.

For example, the top ten countries or territories for administering doses of COVID-19 vaccine in the Bloomberg report were:

Gibraltar, 279.2 doses/100 people

Cuba, 244.2 doses/100 people

Chile, 207.5 doses/100 people

Maldives, 204.8 doses/100 people

UAE, 201.6 doses/100 people

Bahrain, 191.7 doses/100 people

Uruguay, 190.7 doses/100 people

Malta, 185.9 doses/100 people

Cayman Islands, 183.7 doses/100 people

Seychelles, 182.7 doses/100 people

China ranked 16th at 172.1 doses/100 people; the United States ranked 66th at 134.0/100 people; EU members were generally greater than 100 doses/100 people but had several member states below that (Bulgaria at 45.4 doses/100 people; Romania at 73.0 doses/100 people) and had an overall average of 138.7. Morocco had the most doses/100 people for a country from Africa — 136.5.

Twenty-eight countries or territories have administered between 75 and 99.4 doses/100 people (including India at 84.6 doses/100 people); twenty-three countries or territories have administered between 50 and 73 doses/100 people (including Rwanda at 65.2 doses/100 people and Botswana at 52.8 doses/100 people); twenty-two countries or territories have administered between 25 and 47.1 doses/100 people (including South Africa at 41.4 doses/100 people); thirty-three countries or territories have administered between 0.2 and 18.7 doses/100 people.

Obviously, there are a large number of countries (including some developed countries) where vaccines administered are far too limited. For many developing and LDC countries with low numbers of doses administered, the failure of supplies to be delivered to COVAX for shipment is certainly a significant cause. India’s need to keep vaccine doses at home was a major cause of the shortfall to COVAX in 2021, but not the only reason.

Belatedly larger volumes of vaccine doses are making it to those in greatest need. The increases flow from a combination of increased production volumes globally, India resuming exports, increases in donations from a number of countries and more. For example, the UNICEF data on deliveries shows that there have been some significant increases in doses available to the countries or territories with very low doses administered levels. For example, Nigeria shows only 4.6 doses/100 people administered in the Bloomberg vaccine tracker data. The UNICEF vaccine market dashboard shows roughly three times the number of doses delivered to Nigeria as are reported administered (29.689 million vs. 9.254 million). Benin has 1.968 million doses delivered and just 0.347 million administered (2.9/100 people). It is also true for countries receiving doses from COVAX with higher existing doses administered. For example, Zimbabwe which had 42.3 doses administered per 100 people in the Bloomberg data showed nearly twice as many doses delivered in the UNICEF data as had been administered (11.322 million doses delivered vs. 6.31 million doses administered).

What the two reports suggest is that while vaccine equity is a real issue, the causes of the very different experiences of different countries or territories in the same general area are complex and not easily or completely understood by the current discussion. For example, Zimbabwe’s per capital GNI in 2020 was $1,090 and yet they had administered 42.3 COVID vaccine doses/100 people. Cameroon, with a per capita GNI in 2020 of $1,100, had COVID vaccines administered of only 2.4/100 people. Similarly, Morocco had a 2020 per capita GNI of $2,980 and COVID vaccines administered of 136.5/100 people. In comparison, South Africa with a much higher per capita GNI in 2020 ($5,410) had COVID vaccines administered at less than 1/3rd the rate of Morocco – 41.4 vs.136.5/100 people. Nigeria, with a 2020 per capita GNI of $2,000 had administered only 4.6 COVID vaccines/100 people.

Thus, those working on improving vaccine equity need to identify and address the other causes besides vaccine production and availability through COVAX in the coming months.

I paste below the data from the Bloomberg COVID Vaccine Tracker ranked in descending order of COVID vaccine doses administered per 100 people as of November 19, 2021.


The folly of self-selection as a developing country at the WTO

In prior posts I have reviewed efforts by the United States and others to have the WTO membership modify who is entitled to special and differential treatment in light of the rapid changes in economic capabilities of a number of countries who have classified themselves as “developing” countries at the WTO under the self-designation approach that has characterized the GATT and now the WTO. See, e.g., December 14, 2020:  WTO December 14th Heads of Delegation meeting – parting comments of U.S. Ambassador Dennis Shea,; August 13, 2020 [updated August 27]:  The race to become the next WTO Director-General – where candidates are on important issues:  eligibility for special and differential treatment/self selection as a developing country,; February 15, 2020: The U.S. Modifies the List of Developing and Least Developed Countries Under U.S. Countervailing Duty Law,; December 28, 2019: WTO Reform – Will Limits on Who Enjoys Special and Differential Treatment Be Achieved?,

The issue is one of importance because of the concern that many Members who have economically advanced to be fully internationally competitive or internationally competitive in significant areas of goods or services are not opening their markets to a level commensurate with their actual stage of development. A number of Members have indicated that they will not seek Special and Differential treatment in new agreements while maintaining rights under existing ones. The U.S., the EU and others have sought a more factual basis for any entitlement to differential treatment.

On November 10, 2021, Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala addressed the WTO Committee on Trade and Development (“CTD”) See WTO News Release, “Development issues should be at the heart of work at the WTO“— DG Okonjo-Iweala, 10 November 2021, The press release starts with an overview of the importance of development in the overall WTO mission,

“Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala highlighted the key role that trade plays in economic development during a meeting of the WTO’s Committee on Trade and Development (CTD) on 10 November. She stressed that development is a priority for the WTO and that the CTD plays an important role in addressing the development dimension in the multilateral trading system.

“DG Okonjo-Iweala stressed that the work of the WTO is important for developing and least  developed countries (LDCs),  hence, it is critical for the WTO to deliver on issues of importance to them. Trade is a significant driver for economic growth and poverty reduction and ultimately for development, she added.”

The press release later has a statement that “The Secretariat presented the findings of its latest report concerning the participation of developing economies in global trade.” The latest report is PARTICIPATION OF DEVELOPING ECONOMIES IN THE GLOBAL TRADING SYSTEM, NOTE BY THE SECRETARIAT, 28 October 2021, WT/COMTD/W/262.

The problem with the note from the Secretariat and the functioning of the Committee on Trade and Development and other aspects of the WTO work is that developing countries in the note is treated as all Members so designating themselves and hence provides little useful information on the role of countries in actual need of assistance. Data in the note is skewed by information on developing Asia — an area that includes China, Singapore, the Republic of Korea and Chinese Taipei (Taiwan). On pages 8-9 of the Secretariat note, the major “developing” country traders are reviewed. The top 15 developing country exporters in 2020 were Chins (34.0%), Republic of Korea (6.7%), Mexico (5.5%), Singapore (4.8%), Chinese Taipei (4.6%), United Arab Emirates (4.2%), Viet Nam (3.7%), India (3.6%), Malaysia (3.1%), Thailand (3.0%), Brazil (2.8%), Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (2.3%), Turkey (2.2%), Indonesia (2.1%), South Africa (1.1%), other (16.4%). The top 15 importer developing countries included all of the top exporters with the exception of South Africa (Hong Kong, China was the 15th largest importer).

The World Bank provides Gross National Income per capita for most countries/territories (China blocks provision of data for Chinese Taipei). The latest data are for 2020 and include the following ranges for the four categories of World Bank countries:

Low income countries, less than $1,048/capita GNI

lower middle-income economies, $1,048-4,095/capita GNI

upper middle-income economies, $4,096-12,695/capita GNI

high income economies, $12,696 or more/capita GNI.

China in 2020 had a per capita GNI of $10,610; Singapore had a 2020 per capita GNI of $54,920; Republic of Korea had a 2020 per capita GNI of $32,860; Chinese Taipei had a per capita GDP in 2021 of $33,402; Mexico had a 2020 per capita GNI of 8,480; the United Arab Republic had a 2019 per capita GNI of $43,470; the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had a 2020 per capita GNI of $21,930; Hong Kong, China, had a 2020 per capita GNI of $48,630; Thailand had a 2020 per capita GNI of $7,050; Malaysia had a 2020 per capita GNI of $11,230; Turkey had a 2020 per capita GNI of $9,030; Brazil had a 2020 per capita GNI of $7,850.

See New World Bank country classifications by income level: 2021-2022, July 1, 2021,; World Bank Country and Lending Groups, ← Country Classification,; GNI per capita, Atlas method (current US$) – China, (lists all countries); Wikipedia, Economy of Taiwan,

There is obviously no justification in high income economies receiving special and differential treatment as though they are developing countries in fact. Thus, data for Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong, UAE, Saudi Arabia shouldn’t be in the developing country data base. Similarly, China and Malaysia with per capita GNIs above $10,000 and purchasing power parity gross national income per capita (2019) above the minimum high income economy threshold ($16,790 for China; $28,830 for Malaysia) shouldn’t be eligible for special and differential treatment as a general rule. Brazil, Thailand, Turkey and Mexico while below $10,000 per capita GNI in 2020 have 2019 per capita purchasing power parity GNI higher than the high income economy threshold ($14,890 for Brazil; $26,840 for Mexico; $18,570 for Thailand; $27,660). There is no apparent logic in having these countries have automatic rights to special and differential treatment.

The Secretariat, of course, cannot change the classification of Members. But the lack of a rational standard for determining appropriateness of receiving special and differential treatment undermines the functioning of the WTO and permits countries who have succeeded at rapid economic development from assuming full obligations of WTO membership. The problem also results in statistical reports that are largely meaningless.

In a consensus based system like the WTO, the road to rationality will be long at best with many WTO Members who should have accepted full obligations by now continuing to hide behind the self-selection process to claim lesser obligations.

WTO Fisheries Subsidies Negotiations — a second revised text from November 8 holds out hope for a deal by MC12; how realistic is the hope?

After twenty years of negotiations on fisheries subsidies, WTO Members are just weeks away from another “hard” deadline for concluding the talks — the twelfth WTO Ministerial Conference being held in Geneva November 30-December 3. On November 8, the Chair of the Negotiating Group on Rules released a second revision to the draft text of a fisheries subsidies agreement along with a detailed explanatory note on the changes made from the first revision and the road ahead. See Negotiating Group on Rules – Fisheries Subsidies, Revised Draft Text, 8 November 2021, TN/RL/W/276/Rev. 2 and Fisheries Subsidies, Revised Draft Text, Chair’s Explanatory Note Accompanying TN/RL/W276/Rev.2, 8 November 2021, TN/RL/W/26/Rev.2/Add.1.

Ambassador Santiago Wills of Colombia, the Chair of the negotiations, gave a summary of next steps in his conclusion. Paragraph 148 provides the challenge ahead:

“148. Regarding next steps, where we need to go from here is simple: we have to genuinely negotiate. We have only three weeks left until MC12 and only two weeks before we need to send something to Ministers through the General Council. Our objective before then is to collectively evolve this draft text ideally into a completely clean text, or at least as clean as possible with only
one or two issues left for our Ministers to decide. As I communicated to you in my e-mail of 4 November, and as has been the plan since we resumed our work following the summer break, we now will need to meet very frequently – essentially every day – starting tomorrow, to review everything together clause-by-clause.”

The WTO Members have a lot at stake in terms of whether an agreement can finally be achieved. In the WTO press release about the release of the revised text, the importance of getting to the finish line is alluded to by the Director-General. The agreement is in fulfilment of one of the UN Sustainable Development Goal subitems, 14.6, although the WTO already missed the completion date of 2020. See WTO News, Revised fisheries subsidies text kicks off intensified negotiations ahead of MC12, 8 November 2021,

“The Director-General told members she has been engaging with political leaders, including at the highest levels, to get their support for a successful conclusion to the 21-year-long negotiations.

“‘The eyes of the world are really on us,’ she said. ‘Time is short and I believe that this text reflects a very important step toward a final outcome. I really see a significant rebalancing of the provisions, including those pertaining to special and differential treatment, while, at the same time, maintaining the level of ambition.’

“Members are scheduled to hold daily meetings on the basis of the latest draft text, with the goal of providing ministers a clean draft before MC12.

“Under the mandate from the WTO’s 11th Ministerial Conference held in Buenos Aires in 2017 and the UN Sustainable Development Goal Target 14.6, negotiators have been given the task of securing agreement on disciplines to eliminate subsidies for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and to prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, with special and differential treatment being an integral part of the negotiations.”

A review of the revised draft and the Chair’s explanatory text show a large number of issues where strong differences remain, many provisions still in brackets, some alternative texts provided and other challenges all of which need to be largely resolved within two weeks. See, e.g., Art. 3.3, alternatives for type of proof and process needed for a finding that a vessel or operator has engaged in “illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing”; Art. 3.8, period that developing countries can provide subsidies and distance from shore for the fishing activities; Art. 4.4, similar bracketed provisions for subsidies for developing countries regarding overfished stocks; Art. 5.1(i), prohibited subsidies contingent upon or tied to fishing and related activities beyond the subsidizing Member’s jurisdiction; Art. 5.3, alternatives for disciplines on subsidies to vessels not flying the flag of the subsidizing Member; Art. 5.4, exceptions for developing countries including duration of exception and area from shore to which it applies; Art. 6.2, exceptions for LDC Members; Article 7, technical assistance and capacity building; Art. 8.2(b), whether to include notification requirements by Members of “any vessels and operators for which the Member has information that reasonably indicates the use of forced labour, along with relevant information to the extent possible”; Art. 8.5, notification requirements of any regional fisheries management organization or arrangement (RFMO/A); Art. 9.1, institutional arrangements; Art. 9 and 10 (dispute settlement) more broadly; Art. 11.1 and 11.5 from final provisions.

The detailed description from the Chair of the changes made and major differences that remain confirms that the effort to get to a final agreement will be daunting. The Chair’s proposed path forward includes using several Friends of the Chair to help address a range of open issues. But it also includes daily meetings including in different configurations and the inclusion of officials from capital remotely.

Challenges facing Members include some of the broader reform issues raised by the U.S. and others. Various special and differential treatment provisions (“S&D provisions) apply to “developing countries” as well as LDCs. “Developing Country is a matter of self-selection, meaning many WTO Members claim such status despite not needing S&D to be competitive. The U.S., EU and others have raised concerns with the need to refocus S&D on those actually needing assistance. Are the qualifiers on the S&D provisions sufficient to see that major subsidizers like China and others are not eligible to avoid disciplines? Similarly, can the effort of some “developing countries” to seek S&D for decades possibly make sense if the Agreement is to achieve sustainability of wild caught fish and if there are few restrictions on who is a developing country?

The U.S. has had deep concerns about the use of forced labor on fishing vessels. See The Use of Forced Labor on Fishing Vessels, Submission of the United States, 27 May 2021, TN/RL/GEN/205. The revised draft text agreement contains only one of three proposed modifications to the draft text proposed by the U.S. to better address concerns about forced labor, and that provision (Art. 8.2(b)) is opposed by some Members, presumably those whose fleets are known or suspected of using forced labor. More broadly, will a final text result in meaningful reforms on fisheries subsidies or be so compromised that the agreement offers at best partial disciplines.

With the world watching and with the opportunity to restore at least partially the relevance of the WTO as a forum for trade negotiations, WTO Members have two weeks to get a near finished text agreed, with less than two weeks after that for Members to agree to a meaningful final text to ensure a successful 12th WTO Ministerial Conference. Let’s hope that the WTO Membership can rise to the occasion.