China says WTO faces ‘profound crisis’ — urges reform

Shoppers browse their phones outside a fashion boutique selling US brand clothing in a Beijing shopping mall. China and the US have clashed about how the WTO should reform to better serve member interests. (AP Photo)
Updated 23 November 2018
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China says WTO faces ‘profound crisis’ — urges reform

  • Members of the G20 are expected to discuss WTO reform when they meet at a summit in Argentina next week
  • Debate on reforming the WTO has been largely driven by US complaints that it has failed to police suspected Chinese rule-breaking

BEIJING: China urged the World Trade Organization (WTO) to close loopholes and correct practices by some member states that damage global trade, warning of a “profound crisis” facing the institution’s existence.
China and the United States have clashed about how the WTO should reform to better serve member interests, amid a widening trade dispute that has triggered billions in retaliatory tariffs and rocked global markets.
Members of the G20 are expected to discuss WTO reform when they meet at a summit in Argentina next week, following a failed attempt to reach agreement on the topic at an APEC forum held last week in Papua New Guinea.
Debate on reforming the WTO has been largely driven by US complaints that it has failed to police suspected Chinese rule-breaking, with US President Donald Trump threatening a withdrawal to protect American interests.
The United States wants the WTO to crack down on China’s subsidies for state-owned enterprises (SOE), overcapacity in steel and other basic industries, and on the practice of forcing investors to hand over valuable technology.
At a news conference on Friday, China’s Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen unveiled a list of detailed demand and principles to clarify China’s stance that reform should uphold core WTO values, ensure fairness and protect developing countries’ interests.
He took aim at what he called “excessive” agriculture subsidies enjoyed exclusively by developed countries, saying some member states had exploited loopholes in the WTO system.
Reforms should correct some countries’ discrimination against investments by other countries and companies, and not be used as a way to deprive China of the right to enjoy differentiated treatment as a developing country, Wang said, without naming any countries.
“Some countries are in reality just hoping to uphold their monopoly status and restrict other member states’ development,” he said.
Referring to state-owned enterprises (SOEs), he said China opposed groundless criticism of “normal SOE and industrial subsidies” and “normal sharing of technological innovations.”
Wang added the WTO should try to resolve a deadlock in appointments to its Appellate Body, which have been blocked by the United States which blames the dispute settlement body’s judges for hampering a US campaign against what it sees as unfair trade practices.
China’s ambassador to the WTO, Zhang Xiangchen, said this week that China would not have views forced upon it as he warned fellow WTO members against seeing reform as a chance to put China in a straitjacket.
“The WTO should prioritize key issues that threaten the institution’s existence,” Wang said.


Amazon workers strike as ‘Prime’ shopping frenzy hits

Updated 28 min 8 sec ago
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Amazon workers strike as ‘Prime’ shopping frenzy hits

  • The protesters waves signs with messages along the lines of “We’re human, not robots”
  • The strike was part of an ongoing effort to pressure the company on issues including job safety, equal opportunity in the workplace, and concrete action on issues including climate change

SAN FRANCISCO: Amazon workers walked out of a main distribution center in Minnesota on Monday, protesting for improved working conditions during the e-commerce titan’s major “Prime” shopping event.
Amazon workers picketed outside the facility, briefly delaying a few trucks and waving signs with messages along the lines of “We’re human, not robots.”
“We know Prime Day is a big day for Amazon, so we hope this strike will help executives understand how serious we are about wanting real change that will uplift the workers in Amazon’s warehouses,” striker Safiyo Mohamed said in a release.
“We create a lot of wealth for Amazon, but they aren’t treating us with the respect and dignity that we deserve.”
Organizers did not disclose the number of strikers, who said employees picketed for about an hour in intense heat before cutting the protest short due to the onset of heavy rain.
The strike was part of an ongoing effort to pressure the company on issues including job safety, equal opportunity in the workplace, and concrete action on issues including climate change, according to community organization Awood Center.
US Democratic presidential contenders Kamila Harris and Bernie Sanders were among those who expressed support for the strikers on Twitter.
“I stand in solidarity with the courageous Amazon workers engaging in a work stoppage against unconscionable working conditions in their warehouses,” Sanders said in a tweet.
“It is not too much to ask that a company owned by the wealthiest person in the world treat its workers with dignity and respect.”
Amazon employees also went on strike at seven locations in Germany, demanding better wages as the US online retail giant launched its two-day global shopping discount extravaganza called Prime Day.
Amazon had said in advance that the strike would not affect deliveries to customers.
Amazon has consistently defended work conditions, contending it is a leader when it comes to paying workers at least $15 hourly and providing benefits.
The company last week announced plans to offer job training to around one-third of its US workforce to help them gain skills to adapt to new technologies.
Amazon has been hustling to offer one-day deliver on a wider array of products as a perk for paying $119 annually to be a member of its “Prime” service, which includes streaming films and television shows.
The work action came on the opening day of a major “Prime” shopping event started in 2015.
Now in 17 countries, the event will span Monday and Tuesday, highlighted by a pre-recorded Taylor Swift video concert and promotions across a range of products and services from the e-commerce leader.
Prime Day sales for Amazon are expected to hit $5 billion this year, up from $3.2 billion in 2018, which at the time represented its biggest ever global shopping event, JP Morgan analyst Doug Anmuth says in a research note.