International Trade Secretary Liz Truss has called on G7 countries to get tough with China and to reform the World Trade Organization (WTO).
She was speaking with fellow trade ministers at the first-ever G7 Trade Track Ministerial meeting today (31 March).
“We need to reverse the fragmentation of global trade and get the global system and WTO working again, otherwise we risk big countries going their own way and operating outside an agreed set of rules, which always spells trouble,” she said according to Reuters.
WTO leader present
Truss was chairing the inaugural trade minister meeting as the UK is currently president of the G7 group of nations, which also includes the US, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and Italy, as well as representatives from the EU.
New WTO director-general, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, also attended the meeting.
In an interview with the FT ahead of the call, Truss said it was “ludicrous” that China was viewed as a “developing country” at WTO level.
“The WTO was established when China was 10% the size of the US economy,” she said. “It is ludicrous that it is still self-designating as a developing country — and those rules need to change.”
The UK plans to lead the push for reform of the WTO, saying it needs a rulebook that keeps pace with modern opportunities and challenges.
“We can no longer be held back by outdated rules, some of which have barely moved on from 1995,” said Truss.
Free trade champion
As chair of the virtual meeting, the UK said it will champion free and fair trade for all nations, as well as calling out unfair trading practices, the government announced ahead of the meeting.
The G7 will also work with the WTO’s new leadership to modernise the organisation, particularly in key areas like digital trade and the environment.
The next G7 Trade Ministerial meeting is due to take place in-person in May.