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China needs to make ‘a greater, clear contribution’ to solve trade disputes, WTO hopeful says

Jesus Seade Kuri, one of the eight candidates to become the new WTO director general.

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China must make greater efforts to overcome trade disputes with its World Trade Organization (WTO) partners, Jesus Kuri, one of several candidates to be the new WTO chief, told CNBC Tuesday.

China entered the WTO in 2001, after 15 years of negotiations. However, it has clashed with other WTO members on different occasions, including with the United States, which has often dubbed China’s trade practices as “unfair.” As a result, both nations engaged in a tit-for-tat tariff war until recently.

“There are issues with China that China needs to make a greater, clear contribution to resolve those issues between them and everybody else,” Jesus Seade Kuri, the Mexican nominee to replace Ricardo Azevedo as the WTO director general, told CNBC’s Julianna Tatelbaum.

He argued that there needs to be progress over a price mechanism and over technological differences, adding that in 19 years of membership, there have been 44 disputes initiated against China. “That’s a lot,” he said, although he noted that “at the same time, China has been very engaged in many other respects.”

Kuri, an economist, was Mexico’s chief negotiator for the U.S., Mexico and Canada Trade Agreement, known as USMCA. He is one of eight candidates in the race to replace Ricardo Azevedo at the Swiss-based institution, after the latter decided to leave the institution a year before the end of his mandate.

The change in leadership comes at a time when many question the future of the WTO as an advocate for, and arbiter of, international trade. The institution’s appellate body has been paralyzed since December, which has limited the WTO’s ability to rule on new trade disputes.

“The difficulties that we faced when we created (the) WTO, a quarter of a century ago, were every bit as great and as complex as they are now. But there was a basis of wanting to get things done, a basis of cooperation, of trust. This trust has been lost completely,” Kuri told CNBC.

“So what we need is to find a way to resume the path of negotiation to achieve things together,” he said.

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