One Stone, Two Birds : Can China Leverage WTO Accession to Build the BRI?

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-308
Journal / PublicationJournal of World Trade
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


The efficacy of the World Trade Organization (WTO), as an international forum seeking to provide a uniform platform to Member States for bilateral and multilateral negotiations and further the spirit of a new international economic legal order, is challenged constantly. This article explains how China is using the WTO accession process to leverage its domestic interests towards the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) to obtain greater commitments from existing and potential BRI nations. It is shown that after the BRI’s official establishment in 2013, China’s trade commitments from potential accession countries are becoming more pronounced, with increasing and sometimes onerous expectations of the acceding countries, due to the lack of any standard format for bilateral accession protocols. WTO law is increasingly part of BRI hard law governance practices, suggesting encroachment of BRI disputes within the WTO dispute settlement framework to establish a novel approach to dispute resolution. Since rules-based trade practices are needed, Member States should not adopt accession protocols that are either too rigid or too flexible, thereby creating glaring loopholes to be misused. WTO’s overall objective of furthering trade liberalization can be achieved only by keeping track of techniques adopted by developed countries when negotiating with developing and least developed countries such that potential members are not discouraged from joining the new economic order from the outset.

Research Area(s)

  • Accession, Belt and Road Initiative, BRI, LDC Guidelines, SCM agreement, Services, Subsidies, Telecommunications, Trade-related investment measures, WTO