China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) issued the Measures for the Implementation of the Compliance Work of Trade Policies (Trial) (hereinafter referred to as the Measures) on December 12, 2014. The head of the MOFCOM Department of WTO Affairs has interpreted the Measures.
I. What are the background and policy goal of the introduction of the Measures?
Answer: After the Notification on Further Strengthening the Compliance Work of Trade Policies by the General Office of the State Council (hereinafter referred to as the Notification) was released, MOFCOM has carried out a series of publicity campaigns to improve the understanding of the compliance work of trade policies of all departments of the State Council, local people’s governments at all levels and the whole society. In the meanwhile, the government and the chamber of commerce of the United States and the chamber of commerce of the European Union havel paid attention to such specific trade policies as that of strategic emerging industries, the market access of the service industry and investment measures related with trade by various ways. More and more documents soliciting compliance opinions have been sent to MOFCOM and the number has reached 133 so far. Based on this growth, about 300 cases are expected to be dealt with every year and the workload of the compliance work of the relevant departments will double at least. In consideration of some procedural regulations and overall principles of the Notification, MOFCOM introduced the Measures after asking for opinions of local governments and all departments of the State Council to improve the standardization and operability of the compliance work of trade policies.
II. What is the main content of the Measures?
Answer: The Measures contains 19 articles, which define such contents as the basis and goal of the formulation of the Measures, the coverage scope of trade policies, the definition and the subject of application of compliance, the relevant requirements and procedures of compliance problems proposed in the current and planned trade policies, the responsibility scope of MOFCOM, the procedures and the time limit regulations of dealing with compliance problems.
The sixth article of the Measures sets substantive requirements for the form of written opinions of the compliance problems of trade policies proposed by members of the WTO, which is aimed at improving the transparency and working efficiency of dealing with problems proposed by members of the WTO. According to the regulation of “State Organs Adopting Mandarin and Normal Chinese Characters as the Official Language” of the Common Language Law of the People’s Republic of China, the Measures stipulates that the characters of written opinions of compliance problems proposed by members of the WTO should be “normal Chinese characters”.
If the compliance problems proposed by WTO members involve trade policies formulated by relevant departments of the State Council, the handling time should be within 50 days, according to the eighth article of the Measures. If the compliance problems involve local people’s governments and their departments, the handling time should be within 55 days according to the ninth article of the Measures. These regulations show the immediate response of the Chinese government to the concerns of WTO members and its positive attitude to improving working efficiency. At the same time, the Measures stipulates that when compliance opinions of relevant trade policies need to conduct scientific, technical and economic analysis, MOFCOM can properly lengthen the time limit of proposing written opinions. This is because when compliance assessment is made on trade policies of some professional fields (such as agriculture, technical barriers to trade and health quarantine standards of animals and plants), the relevant laws assessment should be based on scientific experiment, technical standard assessment and if they will cause unnecessary limits to trade. These analyses usually take a very long time.
III. What is the relationship between MOFCOM and local people’s governments at all levels in the compliance work of trade policies?
Answer: The fourteenth article of the Measures stipulates that when local people’s governments at all levels and their departments make trade policies, the people’s governments at the provincial level are responsible for their compliance work according to the requirements of both the Notification and the Measures. But in order to make sure that national trade policies can be implemented uniformly, MOFCOM should be responsive when any other department and the people’s government of any province, autonomous region and municipality seeks advice on compliance work, and give guidance to local compliance work, if necessary.