China envoy wants to resolve WTO row with US in Brexit style

China’s ambassador to World Trade Organization (WTO) has used a current parliamentary standoff over Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union to discourage US attempts to bring about forced changes to international trade rules.

Zhang Xiangchen said on Wednesday while addressing WTO members, including US ambassador, in a meeting in Geneva, that he was fond of the way the speaker of Britain’s parliament has been handling Brexit debates over the past months.

“I very much like the style and the voice of John Bercow, who is the speaker of the House of Commons,” Zhang said, referring to Bercow’s impartial way of allowing pro and anti-Brexit lawmakers to make their comments during the debates in the parliament.

The remarks came as US ambassador to the WTO repeated Washington’s proposals for changes in the trade organization so that developing countries could face more restrictions in the global market.

Zhang said the WTO should consider Bercow’s manner of dealing with repeated government attempts to go through the parliament with similar proposals, insisting it should not allow the US to force its way through with reforms that have been rejected by many WTO members.

“I think perhaps we should consider having similar rules to ensure the quality of our discussions,” he said while referring to an “important decision” by Bercow earlier this year which blocked government from coming to the chamber with the same Brexit deal.

A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament’s Parliamentary Recording Unit (PRU) shows Britain’s parliament speaker John Bercow during a debate on Brexit, in the House of Commons in London on April 1, 2019. (AFP photo)

China and the US have been locked in a massive trade standoff since President Donald Trump came to office in January 2017.

Washington has been seeking changes to the WTO rules so that China’s access to markets in the West could come under stricter control.

China and many of its trade partners have slammed the posture, saying any such reforms could only favor the US and lead to more protectionism in the global trade.