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A China With More Clout Awaits Biden at the WTO


HONG KONG—President Biden has said he plans to work with allies to keep pressure on China, but at the World Trade Organization the U.S. will be facing a rival in Beijing that has become a more dominant force in recent years.

Skepticism toward the WTO in successive U.S. administrations translated into policies, such as blocking judges to its top court, that have largely gutted its ability to serve as an international arbiter of trade disputes.

At the same time, Beijing has cast itself as a defender of the WTO and its top court, fueling its stature within the organization. That has helped China to blunt calls for changes to its state-controlled economy, which other members say distort the market.

“For the foreseeable future, China will partake actively in WTO discussions and initiatives, without offering major concessions at the negotiating table,” said Harvard University law professor and trade expert Mark Wu.

Mr. Biden’s team has said that he would lift the U.S. blockade on judges but that the pandemic and U.S. economic recovery could take precedence over trade.


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