Fri, Sep 14, 2001 - Page 17 News List

WTO talks for China, Taiwan delayed

By Richard Dobson  /  STAFF REPORTER

Formal discussions expected to finalize the technical details of entry into the WTO for both Taiwan and China have been postponed until next week due to the terrorist attacks in the US, said officials in Geneva yesterday.

Trade officials in Geneva told the Taipei Times by phone that formal discussions by Taiwan's working party scheduled for today had been rescheduled by the group's chairman for next Tuesday afternoon.

Similar discussions by China's working party slated for yesterday had been rescheduled for next Monday because of the attacks on Washington and New York, said the officials.

It is expected that the working party reports and accession protocol for both Taiwan and China will be adopted during the meetings next week, paving the way for formal approval of their entry into the WTO at the November meeting in Qatar, said officials.

While Taiwan's accession package is virtually ready to be handed in -- despite a few minor technical details -- China has yet to resolve a nagging dispute with the US and the EU over conditions for foreign insurance firms operating there after Beijing joins the WTO, said officials.

Officials addressed reports of concern among diplomats that the attacks and US retaliation on potentially responsible parties in the Middle East would force cancelation of the November ministerial conference by saying there was no change in the meeting schedule.

Keith Rockwell, spokesman for the WTO told reporters that "at the moment we are operating under the assumption that we will be having our meeting as scheduled in Doha, Qatar from Nov. 9 to Nov. 13." An official at the Qatar mission in Geneva also said there had been no changes to the original schedule and attempted to attempted to alleviate concerns saying that security would be tight.

"We are making sufficient preparations for the security aspects of the conference [and] we have hosted many international conferences in the past and have not had any security problems," said the official, who declined to give his name.

"Qatar country is one of the most stable and peaceful in that region," he said.

The Qatar official said there currently were no plans to increase security in the country's capital where the conference will be held in the wake of the US attacks.

Gwyn Prins, a professor of security studies and international relations at the London School of Economics believes that the shake-up in security measures worldwide and the hunt for those behind the attacks in the US would make further terrorist acts unlikely.

"Precisely because of the events of the last couple of days there is going to be such a change in the culture of general security that probably anxiety is misplaced," Prins said.

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