Sun, Sep 30, 2012 - Page 8 News List

WTO envoy must work to clarify past issues

By Peng Ming-min 彭明敏

Taiwan’s newly appointed representative to the WTO, former Mainland Affairs Council chairperson Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛), has been part of the pan-blue camp for several years, having crossed over from the greens. According to Lai, she was instrumental in the original negotiations for Taiwan’s entrance into the WTO in 2001, so this appointment must be like returning to familiar territory.

There are many in the worlds of politics and academia, concerned about the issue of Taiwan’s sovereignty, who have always had serious doubts about how Lai handled the WTO entry. Nothing she has said or done since has dispelled these doubts. If she fails to clarify certain points before she takes up her new appointment, it will be difficult for people to trust her entirely.

First, when she completed the final draft of the committee report that formed the basic condition for Taiwan’s WTO entry, she agreed to remove all words and phrases, in more than 30 places within the text, that alluded to sovereignty. She replaced words like “president,” “Executive Yuan,” “Legislative Yuan” and “Ministry of Justice,” with those that did not imply sovereignty, sowing the seeds for the uncertainty over the exact nature of Taiwan’s status within the organization. She has therefore been accused of “forfeiting the nation’s sovereignty under humiliating conditions.”

Second, the distortions introduced by Lai during the drafting process are readily accessible in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ (MOFA) archives. Given the importance of Taiwan’s WTO entry — something unrelated to differences between the blue and green camps — surely President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) would have checked the MOFA archives?

Third, Lai once said during an interview that, at the time, she had been to more than 20 European countries in just 19 days, fighting for Taiwan’s interests. Think how much trouble this would have caused Taiwan’s representatives in these countries given the nature of making appointments with government officials and how much time it would have taken. It would be quite easy to check the archives on the MOFA Web site to see whether this trip actually happened and how she achieved this epic feat.

No wonder professor Hung Szu-chu (洪思竹) felt compelled to write a 14,000-word paper on these events, entitled A Lie Cannot Live (謊言不能久活).

Peng Ming-min is a former senior political adviser to the president.

Translated by Paul Cooper

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