The issue of changing the English title of Taiwan's WTO mission to "Office of Permanent Represen-tative" in the body's directory is still up in the air despite being personally proposed by the organization's director-general, the nation's ambassador to the WTO said yesterday.
"The director-general has shown us respect by attempting to play the role of a neutral coordinator, so the WTO directory that was supposed to be updated in April is not yet available," said Yen Ching-chang (顏慶章), Taiwan's permanent representative to the WTO, outside a legislative committee.
On Feb. 12, WTO head Supachai Panitchpakdi met with Yen to express concerns over Taipei's disputes with Beijing under the WTO framework and proposed a series of moves that Taiwan found unacceptable, Yen told a legislative committee.
Panitchpakdi said the WTO Secretariat was considering amending the English title of Taiwan's delegation to "Office of Permanent Representative" in the body's directory, Yen said.
Panitchpakdi also proposed to change titles of mission members -- including ministers, first secretaries and second secretaries -- to "assistant representatives" in the WTO directory, a foreign ministry official said yesterday during a background briefing in the afternoon.
The official, speaking on condition of anonimity, said that as the common practice was for the WTO Secretariat to edit its directory based on notifications from respective members, Taiwan should not be an exception.
Officials fear that these moves, if realized, could lead to Beijing's deepening degradation of Taipei's role in the WTO.
The WTO's directory is normally updated twice a year -- in April and October. The April version of the directory is not yet available due to what Yen said is the unresolved issue of the Taipei's mission name.
According to Panitchpakdi's proposal, when the English version of regulations Taiwan submits to the body contain words that imply Taiwan is a sovereign state, such as Taiwan's formal designation, the WTO Secretariat would state on the covers of these documents that these wordings do not have sovereignty connotations.
China has boycotted at least two WTO committee meetings after finding wordings it felt it was unable to accept, Yen said.
The WTO chief also proposed that the secretariat would replace these sensitive wordings with "neutral" ones in other documents because Taiwan was admitted to the body as a separate customs territory instead of a sovereign state, Yen said.
But Yen denied that the WTO had asked Taiwan to change its formal title from a permanent mission to a trade and economic office as requested by China.
Panitchpakdi said he found it "improper" to rename Taiwan's mission as an "Economic and Trade Office," like Hong Kong and Macau's mission's, according to Yen.
Yen's clarification contradicted the foreign minister's claim earlier this week that the WTO had asked Taiwan to downgrade its mission to the level of an economic and trade office amid pressure from Beijing.
Although the WTO chief had cited a 1992 statement to justify these proposals, Taiwan interpreted the same document in a different fashion, Yen said.
The document referred to a statement made by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) council chairman on Taipei's application for admission to the body, the forerunner body of the WTO.