On Sunday, China celebrated its 10th anniversary as a member of the World Trade Organization, a trading partnership that over the decade has provided Beijing with opportunities to advance its exports and welcome imports at a pace not otherwise available. Ironically, on the same day, Fitch Ratings announced it was preparing to cut its growth estimates for Asian nations, as the debt crisis and the state of the world economy takes its toll on the region.
Bloomberg reported that Andrew Colquhoun, Fitch’s Hong Kong-based head of Asia-Pacific Sovereigns, said that its quarterly predictions for growth would be released “shortly” and would reflect downgrades for Asian countries. China has already felt the effects of a receding world economy, and has begun implementing steps to support its own economy in place of the brakes it had been applying to cool what had been a too-hot economy.
Beijing had worked for 15 years to win a membership in the WTO, and its membership paid off as the country became the biggest exporter in the world and the second-biggest importer. Its trade in wares ranging from electronics and appliances to clothing and toys reached nearly $3 trillion in 2010, from 2001’s total of $510 billion; exports and imports have both nearly quintupled.
Now, however, amid calls of protectionism and currency manipulation from countries such as the U.S., China finds itself the target of a push to play by the rules the rest of the group observes. Karel De Gucht, European Union trade commissioner, said in a statement, “This spectacular rise would not have been possible without the open global trading system that China was able to benefit from during the past 10 years.”