Wednesday, April 5, 2006
The Office of the State Council recently promulgated a regulation designed to help the government implement its transparency obligations under its Protocol of Accession to the World Trade Organization. Part I.2(C)2 of the Protocol states, inter alia, that "China shall establish or designate an official journal dedicated to the publication of all laws, regulations and other measures pertaining to or affecting trade in goods, services, TRIPS or the control of foreign exchange . . . ."
As can be seen, this is a very significant commitment - "pertaining to or affecting" could be reasonably construed to cover almost anything - and I don't know of any other WTO members subject to such an obligation. (I'm not a WTO expert and so my knowledge is incomplete; certainly the US has no such obligation.) Given the vast array of bodies with significant rulemaking power in China, the central government's major challenge is simply collecting the stuff.
The new regulation, entitled "Notice on Further Doing Well the Work Relevant to Implementing the Transparency Provisions of China's WTO Accession Protocol" (关于进一步做好履行我国加入世界贸易组织议定书透明度条款相关工作的通知), makes clear that the official journal in question is the "Documentary Bulletin of China's Foreign-Related Economy" (中国对外经济贸易文告), and instructs all provincial-level governments and departments directly under the State Council to submit copies of relevant regulations to the Ministry of Commerce for publication in the Bulletin. The main problem seems to lie in local-government recalcitrance. For example, the most recent six issues (all from March) contain 69 regulations; only one (from Shenzhen) is something local governments bothered to send in. Was there really only one trade-related regulation adopted by all of China's local governments in this time?
Documents generally relevant to China's participation in the WTO can be found here.