BEIJING (AP) — China will go along with changes meant to update global trade rules but they must protect Beijing's status as a developing country, a Cabinet official said Friday.
The deputy commerce minister, Wang Shouwen, said any changes must address protectionism and abuse of export controls and security reviews — a reference to Beijing's trade clash with U.S. President Donald Trump.
China agreed in June to work with the European Union to propose changes to the World Trade Organization to address technology policy, subsidies and state industry — all areas in which Beijing faces complaints. That followed U.S. criticism the global trade referee is too bureaucratic and slow to adapt to changing business conditions.
Wang said any changes must respect each country's "development model," a reference to China's state-dominated economy that has provoked repeated complaints Beijing is violating its market-opening obligations.
Beijing has accused Trump of wrecking the global trading system by taking action outside the WTO in imposing tariff hikes on Chinese imports. Trump says such action was necessary because the global body is unable to respond to complaints about Chinese technology theft, subsidies and state-led industry development.
China is "willing to assume obligations" that are "compatible with our own level of development," Wang said at a news conference.
"We will not allow other members to deprive China of the special and differential treatment that developing members deserve," he said.
Wang gave no details of changes Beijing might support. But he said they also must address agricultural subsidies — a frequent complaint by developing countries against industrialized economies — and "discrimination against state enterprises," a reference to restrictions on Chinese government companies abroad.
Beijing's insistence that it is entitled to special status as a developing country despite having grown into the second-largest global economy and a major manufacturer rankles its trading partners. That might dampen chances of reaching agreement on WTO reforms that would satisfy the United States, Europe and other governments.