Truss tells G7 ministers its 'now or never' on WTO reform and urges UK not to depend on China

Thu 27 May 2021
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News


International trade secretary Liz Truss will tell G7 counterparts that they face a “now or never” opportunity to modernise the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Trade ministers from the G7 nations are meeting at a virtual conference today (27 May) and tomorrow in which they will be joined by new WTO leader Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. 

G7 Trade Track

Reuters reports that Britain wants to use its role as president of the G7 this year to get an agreement among the group of wealthy nations to share more information and support the WTO to take steps to punish industrial subsidies and unfair trade practices.

The trade ministers are meeting under the auspices of the ‘G7 Trade Track’, which formed this year behind a shared agenda to make the global trading system fairer, more sustainable and responsive to the needs of citizens.

Rein in China

China will likely be high on the agenda, with Truss having previously criticised the country’s use of subsidies.

China has also denied accusations from Britain that it steals intellectual property, uses forced labour to fuel its booming exports and adopts environmentally unfriendly manufacturing processes.

US ally

The UK is backed in its stance against China by the US, with President Biden keen to rein in China’s increasingly confident geopolitical manoeuvres.

A statement said: “Liz Truss will push for a fully-functioning dispute settlement system, to tackle unfair subsidies in industry and agriculture, to modernise the WTO rulebook, and advance digital and green trade”. 

Stop China dependence

In an interview with Politico, Truss has also warned that the UK must not become “dependent” on Chinese goods and supplies.

Figures released by the ONS this week showed that China became the UK’s biggest source of imports by nation, as reported in the IOE&IT Daily Update yesterday.

China is Britain’s second-largest single nation trade partner behind the EU, but its trade relations with allies like the US and Australia have worsened in recent years.

Multitude of partners

While saying that the UK would continue to trade with China, Truss underlined the importance of having “a multitude of trading partners”.

China’s sanctioning of British MPs who spoke out against the alleged use of forced labour in the country, was “horrific” Truss also said, and she pointed to the need for change.

“There’s a broader issue here about economic coercion and the use of economic power to achieve things,” she said.

“And it is right that democratic countries within the WTO, and our allies who believe in following the rules, do seek to get changes to the way the organisation works.”