Gerard Depayre said that until recently, when China entered the World Trade Organization, the international group was excluding 1.3 billion people.
At a talk in front of about 60 people yesterday at Luce Hall, the deputy European Union ambassador to the United States discussed the past and future of China and the WTO as he emphasized that China’s entrance into the group was an encouraging event.
“[It] should be seen as a huge step toward creating a real World Trade Organization,” Depayre said.
He added that China’s incorporation into the WTO came after 15 years of hard work and negotiations, and emphasized that the integration of China into the group will not proceed without some difficulty.
“The word ‘challenge’ can sum up China’s whole accession to the WTO,” Depayre said.
Many of these challenges arise from the difficult balance between stability and reform.
China needs to continue modernizing, expanding jurisprudence and loosening governmental control, Depayre said. But he added that a desire for stability is tempered by what he characterized as an understanding that the Chinese government must conform to some basic rules and standards in order to make a mutually beneficial partnership work.
And he stressed that China’s eagerness to become a major player in world economic affairs is a good sign.
Evan LePatner ’03 said he was glad to hear Depayre’s positive outlook on the future of the Chinese and world economies.
“His optimism was reassuring for a young person like myself who is interested and concerned with the future of political relations in the world,” LePatner said.
Depayre said he is confident that the long-term benefits of China’s inclusion into the WTO far outweigh any concerns over short-term problems.
With the entrance of China into the group, Chinese business may become more efficient and competitive, there may be a motivation to make the transactions of companies more “transparent” to investors and the public, and there may be an incentive to apply the law with greater impartiality, Depayre said.
He said that the EU has pledged 250 million Euros to help China achieve these goals.
Depayre was the chief EU negotiator on China’s accession to the WTO, and he offered the audience a glimpse of the process that led to the Nov. 11, 2001, unanimous vote admitting China to the group.
He said the negotiations did not deal directly with any human, worker or environmental rights, although talks occurred in an environment colored by these issues.
Xizhou Zhou ’05 said he thought Depayre’s insights into the negotiations helped put in perspective the 15 years of work it took to get China into the WTO.
Depayre ended his remarks with a reflection on the future.
“[There is] no doubt this should be seen as a new era because China is in the WTO and is poised to be a leader and a major factor in the WTO,” he said. “Our relationship has never been stronger.”