Sat, Dec 14, 2002 - Page 3 News List

WTO talks cordial but fail to reach conclusion

By Monique Chu and Lin Miao-Jung  /  STAFF REPORTERS

A steel-dumping dispute between Taiwan and China has brought the two rivals to the negotiating table under the WTO framework, the first such talks since both joined the global trade body a year ago.

"The atmosphere was very good and cordial. All of us were very much restrained and we had absolutely no confrontation at all," Taiwan diplomat James Chang (章遠智) told the Taipei Times by phone yesterday regarding Thursday's meeting.

Four Taiwanese officials met with five Chinese counterparts at the Warwick Hotel in Geneva, said Chang, who was part of the Taiwanese team.

At issue was China's recent proposal that three-year tariffs be imposed on five categories of steel products from Taiwan and other WTO members, including Japan, Russia, South Korea and Malaysia.

The consultations were held in accordance with Article 12.3 of the WTO's Safeguards Agreement, Chang said.

The provision obliges a WTO member proposing to apply a safeguard to hold talks with affected exporters upon request in order to discuss the measure and to reach an understanding on ways to achieve a "substantially equivalent level" of market access for the exporters once the measure is imposed.

Both sides reached no conclusion, however, after wrapping up the consultation that lasted three hours and 10 minutes, and set no timetable for further bilateral talks, Chang said.

"Our side argued that China's report on the issue has failed to prove that the drastic increase of steel imports has shattered the survival of its steel industry to the extent that it's compelled to adopt some safeguard measures," Chang said.

"But the Chinese thought that its report has made a clear causal linkage between the steel imports and the damage thus triggered on its domestic steel industry. Each of us stuck to our own argument," Chang said.

Officials yesterday lamented China's previous endeavors to degrade Taiwan's delegation to the WTO, while welcoming the ice-breaking consultations between Taiwan and China on Thursday.

"Taiwan and China as members of the WTO should have held such talks a while ago," said Chen Ming-tong (陳明通), vice chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council.

"Things would become a lot easier if all regulations are followed [by both sides]," Chen said, indirectly criticizing China's earlier violation of the WTO consensus by failing to address Taiwan by its proper name.

China notified Taiwan's WTO representative office in Geneva late last month of its intent to open negotiations on exports of cold-rolled steel. But in the letter China referred to Taiwan's delegation as the "WTO economic and trade office," instead of its official title, "the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu."

Taipei then lashed out at Beijing and requested that it refer to the delegation by its official title.

Chen said he's relieved that Beijing has finally addressed Taiwan by its official title under the WTO.

Officials also declined to make a big fuss about the level of representation at Thursday's talks "on technical issues," saying participating officials were hand-picked because they were in charge of the steel-related issues.

Neither Taiwan's representative to the WTO, Yen Ching-chang (顏慶章), nor his Chinese counterpart, Sun Zhenyu (孫振宇), took part in the talks, sources said.

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