Arguably the single most important action taken by the World Trade Organization (WTO) in its 26-year history was the admission of China on December 13, 2001.
Joining the WTO accelerated the process of internal economic reform in China. With the reforms, China attracted substantial domestic and foreign investment and expanded its international trade dramatically. Trade remains vitally important to China's economy, to its people's well-being, and to its future.
While all 164 members of the WTO have benefited substantially from progressive trade liberalization and expansion of the rules for global trade, China has been second to none as a beneficiary of the multilateral trading system during these last 20 years. With hard work and concerted effort, and the integration of China into the world economy, hundreds of millions of Chinese were brought out of poverty. The lives of China's people were greatly improved.
This is not the end of history. It is an unfinished story. The expectation of China's trading partners in 2001 was China would continue its integration with other economies. The purpose of the WTO is a shared commitment to ever greater openness of trade on fair terms, free of distortions. It is about convergence based on this ideal.