A country needs to keep up with the new developments, and so are the international organizations. WTO is no exception. The Doha Round has been dragging on for years. Over the past decade, the hundreds of millions of dollars in agricultural subsidies in the developed members have remained largely unchanged. But at the same time, new forms of business, such as e-commerce, have flourished across the world. WTO is not providing international norms to address any of these issues. What is even more alarming is that the organization seems to be losing effectiveness to rein in the rampage of unilateralism and protectionism.
For all these reasons, WTO needs a reform. But the reform should be in the right direction and taking the right approach.
First, the reform needs to be firmly set in the course of fighting against unilateralism and protectionism. It has to push for worldwide trade liberalization and investment facilitation. It has to stick to the principle of non-discrimination and adopt a democratic approach. Reform is not to reinvent the wheel. The existing rules must be fully respected and faithfully implemented. Reform is not an excuse for not implementing the rules, and any such attempt should be met with resistance from the members.
With respect to making new rules for new forms of business activities, we should allow members, maybe starting with groups of like-minded ones, to explore these issues, but we also need to duly consider the views and needs of the developing members and fully consult with them. Only through an inclusive process, can we maybe eventually reach multilateral outcomes.
Second, we need to prioritize and take a step-by-step approach, and stay away from moonshot targets. If, through consultations and negotiations among the members, we could expeditiously restore the proper functioning of the dispute settlement mechanism, achieve an agreement on fishery subsidies in 2019 as we planned, make progress on the new topics such as e-commerce, investment facilitation and MSMEs, make improvements in terms of transparency. If we can achieve these targets at the MC12 in 2020, I think we can already call it a success. China is willing to play a proactive and constructive role, and to make contributions within its capacities.
People sometimes say that the WTO is a patient in a critical state with multiple failing organs. If that is the case, urgently resorting the functioning of the organs and making the right diagnostics of the illness is more important that rushing to give prescriptions. Today’s discussion might be a group consultation of doctors to identify what is the cause of the illness and work on a plan for proper treatment. We might have many such group consultations in different formats so that we can have the right understanding of the issues and provide the right solutions.
We all know where the crisis of WTO comes from, but whatever a particular country or a particular individual thinks about the WTO, it can only serve as the context rather than the reason for the reform of the WTO. Of course, we have to prepare for the worst, but I don’t want to spend too much time on hypothetical scenarios. I just want to say that we will, within our capacities and responsibilities, work hard to push for the right reform of the WTO.
Many countries see the BRI as an opportunity and a platform for closer cooperation with China. One criticism that people have raised is the idea of debt. The idea that many of the loans or the investments involved loans from China to the countries like Sri Lanka may make them take on too much debt and they won't be able to fund them. China is a latecomer in international investment and financing markets. It's just been five years since the BRI was put forward. And it hasn't been that many years since Chinese companies started to explore the global market.
According to the 2017 annual report issued by its central bank, Sri Lanka's total foreign debt is over US$50 billion. China only accounts for about 10%. Plus, over 60% of Chinese loans are concessional loans, with an interest rate much lower than the international level. The cause for debt is complicated and involves many factors, including economic fundamentals, historical debt baggage, or changing international and economic environment like rising protectionism, interest rates hike in some advanced economies, appreciation of major reserve currencies as well as plummeting commodity prices.
斯里蘭卡的港口建設，實際上是斯里蘭卡邀請中方進行的。斯里蘭卡一直希望打造全球性的物流和倉儲中心，但是因為內亂和戰爭， 始終沒有如愿。如今斯里蘭卡局勢穩定，因此希望中國參與建設。一開始中國企業不了解當地局勢，也有很多猶豫，最后經過大量研究、探討，雙方終于達成共識，組建合資企業，股權共有。 但是我要強調的是，港口的主權和所有權都屬于斯里蘭卡，建設完成后，如果斯里蘭卡覺得有必要，可以購回股權。
About the Hambantota port, the project was built and run at the request of the Sri Lankan side. For years, Sri Lanka had hoped to make good use of its geographical location and build the country into a logistic and warehouse hub in the Indian ocean. In the past, because of civil war and conflict, they were unable to do so. Now the situation is stable, to build an international port is back on their agenda. And they looked for help from China. The idea of the operation right also came from the Sri Lankan side. The Chinese company was hesitant at first because they were not familiar with such situation. After careful studies and rounds of consultation and negotiation, the Chinese company overcame difficulties and reached agreement with the Sri Lankan side to set up two joint ventures, and had acquired corresponding stakes. I want to stress that the sovereignty over and ownership of the Hambantota port belong to Sri Lanka throughout the process. When it is done, if it so needs, Sri Lanka can repurchase part of or all stakes from the Chinese company until it takes it all back.
Some compare the Belt and Road Initiative to the Marshall plan. It may appear that the two initiatives have something in common, as they are both about investment in infrastructure in peacetime. But other than that, they cannot be more different. First, time-line wise, the Belt and Road Initiative ( BRI ) is older and also younger than the Marshall Plan. Older because it draws inspiration from the spirit of the ancient Silk Road with over 2000 years of history, hence the modern version of the Silk Road. It is younger than the Marshall plan, because it was conceived in the 21st century, an era of globalization, and born out of opening-up and cooperation. Secondly, the Marshall Plan was introduced during the Cold War dominated by rivalry between the United States and the former Soviet Union. Therefore it had clear geopolitical and ideological goals. The BRI, on the other hand, focuses on economic cooperation and connectivity.