In This Review

China and the WTO: Why Multilateralism Still Matters
China and the WTO: Why Multilateralism Still Matters
By Petros C. Mavroidis and André Sapir
Princeton University Press, 2021, 264 pp.

Early hopes that admitting China into the World Trade Organization would induce Beijing to undertake far-reaching economic and political reforms were disappointed. Instead, the expansion of Chinese exports following the country’s accession to the WTO in 2001 gave rise to chronic commercial conflict with the United States. Mavroidis and Sapir focus on the problems for the global order created by China’s continued reliance on state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and its policy of forced technology transfer. The country is unlikely, they acknowledge, to significantly modify its economic system in response to foreign pressure. It is doubtful, in particular, that bilateral negotiations with the United States will result in any meaningful reforms. Only multilateral pressure applied through the WTO can ensure that China’s SOEs operate in greater conformity with the market and can encourage the country to strengthen its intellectual property protections. The authors suggest that China should adopt provisions relating to SOEs and intellectual property from the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Asia-Pacific’s newly negotiated trade agreement. They argue that Beijing just might agree to subject itself to WTO rules and embrace the liberal spirit of the organization in return for admission into the major regional trade deal.