Mon, Jul 06, 2009 - Page 12 News List

ANALYSIS: Experts divided on political impact of GPA on Taiwan

LONG ROAD TO ACCESSION: The Public Construction Commission called on the government to coordinate efforts to help firms win procurement contracts abroad

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

With Taiwan set to become a signatory to the WTO Government Procurement Agreement (GPA, 政府採購法), which will give local businesses access to global government procurement, experts said the move would also pose great challenges to the country politically and economically.

After President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) signed the instrument of accession to the GPA on June 8 following the legislature’s endorsement on May 15, the agreement will enter into force 30 days after it was sent to the WTO Secretariat to complete the procedure.

The government sent the documents to the WTO on June 15.

When Taiwan entered the WTO in 2002, it said it would join the GPA within a year, but it took more than six years for the world trade body’s Committee on Government Procurement to accept the accession of Taiwan to the plurilateral accord, which it did on Dec. 9.

The objective of the GPA is to encourage government procurement among its members based on the principles of reciprocity and national treatment.

Aside from a series of bilateral negotiations with the other GPA signatories, “the main reason for [the] delay [in Taiwan’s accession] was resolution 87 made by the WTO Committee on Government Procurement on June 2, 2006,” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator William Lai (賴清德) said.

Lai said the DPP government refused to compromise on the country’s sovereignty because of a clause in the resolution that he said amounted to a demand for Taiwan’s “de-sovereignty.”

In the resolution, the GPA parties said the nomenclature and other terminology used in a decision on accession to the agreement — including in appendices and annexes — by any delegation representing a separate customs territory are provided for the purpose of clarity in defining commitments in the framework of the accession of the agreement and that none has implications for sovereignty.

The resolution was widely believed to be aimed at Taiwan, adopted as a member of the WTO under the name “Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Kinmen, Penghu and Matsu.”

Beijing has expressed strong opposition to Taiwan’s accession to the GPA, largely because terminology found in documents hinted at Taiwan’s sovereign status. Another point of contention was the accession of Hong Kong and Aruba — two entities that like Taiwan joined the WTO as separate customs territories — as they are considered autonomous regions rather than countries.

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) considered it a victory when the WTO agreed to allow Taiwan to list the names of the central government’s Cabinet-level bodies and the Office of the President as “The Entities which Procure in Accordance with the Provisions of this [GPA] Agreement.”

The KMT has made no mention of existence of the still valid resolution on the country, not to mention of its possible impact on the country’s sovereignty, while it boasted that the accession to the GPA was attributed to improved cross-strait relations after it came to power.

Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs John Deng (鄧振中) is the top GPA negotiator. He said the resolution was not targeted at Taiwan as “not even a word in the resolution was about the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Kinmen, Penghu and Matsu.”

”The KMT buried its head in the sand when it looked at the problem in this manner,” said Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政), director of the of political science department at Soochow University.

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