GAO's Electronic Database of China's World Trade Organization Commitments

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-06-13.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

United States General Accounting Office
Washington, DC 20548

          June 13, 2003

          The Honorable Charles E. Grassley
          The Honorable Max Baucus
          Ranking Minority Member
          Committee on Finance
          United States Senate

          The Honorable William M. Thomas
          The Honorable Charles B. Rangel
          Ranking Minority Member
          Committee on Ways and Means
          House of Representatives

          Subject: GAO’s Electronic Database of China’s World Trade Organization

          China’s December 2001 accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) signified
          that the world’s seventh largest economy and the United State’s fourth largest trading
          partner would be subject to the multilateral organization’s trade liberalizing
          requirements. China’s accession agreement is a set of legal documents totaling more
          than 800 pages. In order to fulfill its WTO commitments, China will have to
          undertake numerous actions over the next 10 years, ranging from reducing or
          eliminating tariffs to improving the transparency of trade-related rules and

          An understanding of the terms of China’s WTO accession is essential to judging
          whether China is adhering to these commitments. On October 3, 2002, we issued a
          report to you entitled World Trade Organization: Analysis of China’s Commitments
          to Other Members, GAO-03-4. That report analyzed the agreement between China
          and WTO members, including the United States, that allowed China to accede to the
          WTO. The agreement sets forth China’s commitments—or legally binding pledges—
          to other WTO members and describes how China will adhere to the organization’s
          underlying agreements, principles, rules, and specific procedures. Because of the
          length and complexity of the accession agreement, we created an electronic database
          of the major components of the agreement in order to conduct our analysis. We are
          releasing this database publicly today to assist members of Congress and their staffs,
          U.S. executive branch agencies, and other interested parties in analyzing, monitoring,
          and enforcing China’s WTO commitments.

                                                                  GAO-03-797R China-WTO Database
Users can search the database to identify China’s WTO commitments and to access
some of the key results of our analysis as described in our October 2002 report. In
our analysis, we identified nearly 700 individual commitments concerning how China
is expected to reform its trade regime, as well as commitments that liberalize market
access for more than 7,000 goods and nine broad services sectors. The database
allows users to search the more than 800 pages of the agreement based on broad
subject areas (such as intellectual property rights or import regulation) or on specific
key words, sectors, and products (such as transparency, agriculture, or automobiles).
It combines information on commitments China made relating to tariffs and nontariff
measures (such as quotas) into one source so that users can quickly identify all the
different types of barriers that foreign products face. The database also allows users
to search China’s commitments relating to services based on a specific sector, mode
of delivery, or the types of limitations that China specified (such as limitations that
require foreign service providers to partner with a Chinese company). In summary,
the flexibility and comprehensiveness of the database can enable users to quickly and
more efficiently analyze China’s commitments.


In recognizing the scope and importance of China’s commitments, Congress has
provided significant resources to executive branch agencies to enhance the
government’s ability to monitor and enforce China’s compliance with its accession
agreement. Monitoring and enforcing China’s compliance has proved to be a
complex and challenging task, as demonstrated by our recent report, World Trade
Organization: First-Year U.S. Efforts to Monitor China’s Compliance, GAO-03-461.
Those who monitor China’s compliance with its accession agreement can benefit
from having access to useful tools to identify and study particular obligations. Our
database is one such tool that may be of use in your own efforts, as well as those of
the executive branch, other WTO members, and the U.S. business community.

Enclosure I provides a brief description of our database and how to download it.
Enclosure II provides a brief summary of our analysis and some minor modifications
we made to the classification of certain commitments.

We provided a draft of this database to U.S. Trade Representative, Commerce, State,
Agriculture, and other agency officials for their technical comments, which we have
incorporated into the database as appropriate.


We are sending copies of this correspondence and database to interested
congressional committees and executive branch agencies. Copies of this
correspondence and access to the database will be made available at no charge on
the GAO Web site at http://www.gao.gov.

2                                                                    GAO-03-797R China-WTO Database
If you have questions regarding this correspondence, please contact me on (202) 512-
4128 or Adam Cowles, Assistant Director, on (202) 512-9637. Other major
contributors to this correspondence and to the development of the database include
Matthew Helm and Timothy Wedding.

Susan S. Westin
Managing Director
International Affairs and Trade

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                                            Enclosure I

                                 Description of the Database

Our electronic database of China’s World Trade Organization (WTO) commitments is
a single Microsoft (MS) Access file and requires users to have MS Access 2000 to
open the file. It includes instructions and tips for using the database along with
definitions of the source data. The database has three main searchable tables: (1) the
text of the agreement, (2) China’s tariff and nontariff measures on foreign goods, and
(3) China’s schedule of services commitments. In addition, the database includes our
identification and classification of individual commitments from the texts, as well as
our classification of particular types of limitations described in China’s services
schedule. However, the database does not include the list of subsidies China notified
the WTO of (Annex 5) or certain WTO members’ reservations to the agreement
(Annex 7).2

In the process of preparing the database for public distribution, we added other
categories to our analysis of China’s commitments that were not included in the
October 2002 report. These additional categories did not change the total number of
commitments we identified but did modify slightly the groupings that we reported.
Enclosure II to this correspondence briefly describes our analysis and the updated

How To Download the Database

The database can be accessed on GAO’s Web site at the following URL:
http://www.gao.gov/special.pubs/gaochnawtodb.zip. This file is a self-extracting zip
file that includes the MS Access database (GAO’s China-WTO Database.mdb), text
files of the underlying data tables, China’s original WTO accession agreement, and a
summary file (readme.txt) that explains the various files included. Users should
download the zip file to their computers’ hard drive and then double- click on the file
to extract the individual files to a location on their hard drive. In order to use the full
database, users need to have MS Access 2000 installed on their computers. However,
the text files of the underlying data tables can be imported into any database or
spreadsheet program for users without MS Access 2000.

Please note that some users may have trouble downloading a zip file depending on
whether their agency's or company's fire wall permits it. If you are unable to
download this file, we may be able to send you a copy by another means. Please refer
to the contact information at the end of the letter portion of this product.

  For a description of the scope and methodology for this analysis, see U.S. General Accounting Office,
World Trade Organization: Analysis of China’s Commitments to Other Members, GAO-03-4
(Washington, D.C.: Oct. 3, 2002).
  The subsidies notification is a description of Chinese subsidy programs and is not easily converted
into a useful format for a database. The reservations annex lists restrictions that seven WTO members
(other than the United States) intend to maintain on certain imports from China following accession.
Both annexes can be downloaded from the WTO Web site.

4                                                                  GAO-03-797R China-WTO Database
                                                                                Enclosure II

                               Description of Our Analysis and Updated Categories

           As part of the analysis in our report World Trade Organization: Analysis of China’s
           Commitments to Other Members, GAO-03-4 (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 3, 2002), we
           identified seven types of commitments included in the Protocol and Working Party
           report of China’s accession agreement. In table 3 (p. 12) of the report we listed the
           number of commitments of each type by the area of the agreement. In the process of
           preparing the database for public distribution, we made some minor adjustments to
           that analysis. These changes did not affect the overall number of commitments we
           identified nor the number in each trade area. The changes affected the classification
           of only a few types of commitments within particular areas. In addition, we are
           reporting an eighth type of commitment, which we identify in the database as
           “practices.” Commitments of this type require China to create, modify, or repeal an
           existing practice (that is not specified as a law or regulation) in order to comply with
           a WTO requirement. Table 1 presents our updated analysis of the number of China’s
           commitments by area and type.

           Table 1: Type and Number of China WTO Trade Regime Commitments, by Area

                         commitments in

                                                                                                                                                          Adhere to WTO

                         Number of


                                                                                                    Laws and



General                          20                       3            4                        0            0                     0            0                          3                        0           10
Trade framework                  82                       4           10                       19           19                     3           31                         12                       24            7
Import regulation               227                      16           37                       31           15                    33          111                         38                       24           13
Export regulation                 9                       0            3                        1            1                     3            2                          3                        0            1
Trading rights and              117                       6           22                        7            2                    29           31                         22                       10           21
industrial policies
Agriculture                     101                       8           11                       13            3                    11                 64                   11                        5            4
Services                         45                       9            6                        5            1                     4                 23                    3                        2            4
Intellectual property            34                       9            2                        1           15                     5                  9                   21                        2            1
Safeguards and trade               70                     3                 8                   0                 1                2                 10                   12                        0           45
Total                           705                      58        103                         77           57                    90          281                125                               67     106

           Source: GAO analysis of China’s WTO accession agreement.


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