President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday asked the government to make all-out efforts to defend Taiwan's legitimate rights in the World Trade Organization (WTO), saying that Taiwan will firmly reject the WTO's request, under pressure from China, to downgrade the status of its mission to the world trade body.
"It is impossible for Taiwan to accept the downgrading of its WTO mission," Chen said, "I hope that all executive branch and overseas representative offices can resolutely demonstrate Taiwan's resolve to safeguard the nation's dignity as well as to seek support from the other countries."
The president made his remarks when chairing an emergency national security meeting yesterday to cope with the latest developments at the WTO, which has repeatedly asked Taiwan to change its mission's title and to remove all symbols which describe Taiwan as a political entity.
"We joined the WTO as a separate customs territory. Our entry formula was completely different from Hong Kong's and Macau's. Beijing has no right to ask us to change our designation in the WTO," Chen said.
Chen again regretted that China had refused to recognize the fact of Taiwan's existence and continually suppresses the nation in the international community by insisting on its so-called "one China" principle.
"For instance, while the spread of SARS threatens the world, China still endeavored to block Taiwan's bid to join the World Health Organization (WHO) as an observer during the annual World Health Assembly by claiming Taiwan was a province of China, and even lied to the world that it had made arrangement to take care of Taiwan's situation," Chen said.
During the meeting, Yen Ching-chang (顏慶章), Taiwan's permanent representative to the WTO -- who returned to Taipei at the weekend -- delivered a report on the WTO Secretariat's proposal to downgrade the mission to the level of an economic and trade office and its possible impact.
Under pressure from Beijing, Yen said, the WTO Secretariat has asked Taiwan's permanent mission to change its current title of "Permanent Mission of the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu" and refer to itself as an economic and trade office, as do Hong Kong and Macau.
The term "mission" suggest diplomatic status which China insists violates the terms of Taiwan's membership of the WTO as an economic entity rather than a sovereign country.
Chen directed Yen to step up consultations with the WTO Secretariat and the WTO secretary-general after returning to Geneva.
After the meeting, Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien (簡又新) said Taiwan would never succumb to Beijing's attempt to get the title of its mission to the WTO changed.
"We'll not easily give up any efforts to safeguard the rights of our country," Chien told the press yesterday afternoon in Taoyuan.
Also citing Beijing's sabotage of Taiwan's bid to join the WHO as well as its endeavors to downgrade the country's mission to WTO, Chien lashed out China as a "troublemaker."
"In both organizations where political and diplomatic issues are not at stake while health and international trade are the key respective concerns, China has continued its suppression of Taiwan," Chien said. "Both instances simply illustrate who the real troublemaker is."
Chien attacked China for having gravely damaged cross-strait relations as well as endangering global peace and stability.