China Reverses Stance on Domestic Production Rule for Office Equipment

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Draft papers describing China’s national standards for new regulations requiring foreign office equipment manufacturers to design and develop office equipment in China

GENEVA / BEIJING — China has done an about-face since an October 2022 World Trade Organization meeting in which it clearly stated that it would not revise its standards to require office equipment such as multifunction printers to be designed and developed in China, it has been learned.

Although a Chinese government official stated at the WTO meeting that China would not introduce new national standards for these products, the government made a domestic announcement for a policy of introducing such standards about 10 days after the meeting, according to sources.

Diplomatic sources criticized China for disregarding international rules, saying its policy is contrary to the spirit of the WTO, which seeks to liberalize trade.

When China’s planned national standards for multifunction printers were discussed at the WTO Committee on Market Access on Oct. 18-19, a Chinese government official said there were no plans to review national standards for printers or copiers in the near future.

The official also stated that “the authorities dealing with national standards have not received any instructions to review any standards,” according to negotiation sources in Geneva.

China repeated similar statements at the WTO Council for Trade in Goods held Nov. 24-25.

However, China’s National Information Security Standardization Technical Committee, which is in charge of national standards for information security technology, announced on Oct. 30 a policy to promote the introduction of national standards in the office equipment safety code that were inconsistent with China’s statements in negotiations.

A draft of the code obtained by The Yomiuri Shimbun in July last year states that “Design, development and production should be completed [in China]” for office equipment procured by the Chinese government.

Some manufacturers are concerned that China is trying to obtain advanced manufacturing technology from Japanese and U.S. companies that Chinese companies do not have.

The Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in China, an economic organization of Japanese companies in that country, has been urging the Chinese government to reconsider the introduction of the standards. Manufacturers from Japan, the United States and other countries have also urged it to reconsider.

The Japanese government has also sought to ensure fair competitive conditions at high-level consultations with Chinese authorities since last July.

A negotiation source criticized China’s abrupt reversal of its government position, saying: “This high-handed approach prioritizes domestic logic, which is contrary to international norms. It also undermines the credibility of the government’s statements.”