US support for Taiwan in its fight to maintain its status at the WTO is highly appreciated, Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien (
Chien said the US is aware of Beijing's moves to press the Geneva-based WTO Secretariat to downgrade Taiwan's permanent mission to the body to "Office of Permanent Representative," while adding the US stood side-by-side with Taiwan on the issue.
The US support for Taiwan was a "substantive boost" at a time when the country is still negotiating with the WTO over the controversial issue, Chien said.
A US Department of State official was quoted as saying that since Taiwan was admitted to the WTO as a formal member, it is entitled to the same rights as other members of the trade body.
A senior government official who declined to be named said yesterday that Taiwan would never accept Beijing's attempt to downgrade its status.
"We'll never accept any name change," the official said.
The official attended an informal meeting with National Security Council (NSC) members yesterday morning over the issue.
"The WTO Directory, although not a part of the body's legal papers, serves as a key reference book for all WTO members. Before changing pertinent information on a single member in the directory, the secretariat has to win the agreement of the party concerned," the official said.
"The WTO should stay neutral, avoiding any involvement in political and sovereignty issues," the official said. "China should not bring up any political disputes to disrupt the proceedings of the WTO that focus on trade and economic issues."
According to Article 6 of the Marrakesh Agreement establishing the WTO, "In the discharge of their duties, the Director-General and the staff of the Secretariat shall not seek or accept instructions from any government or any other authority external to the WTO.
"They shall refrain from any action which might adversely reflect on their position as international officials," the article says.
The article also says WTO members should respect the international character of the responsibilities of these WTO staff, while not seeking to influence them in the discharge of their duties.
Taiwan's representative to the WTO, Yen Ching-chang (顏慶章), said on Wednesday that WTO Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi in February said the body was considering amending the English title of Taiwan's delegation to "Office of Permanent Representative" in the WTO directory.
The official said although the WTO chief had cited a 1992 statement to justify his proposal, Taiwan saw the statement as a non-binding remark rather than as a "political understanding."
The council chairman of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the forerunner of the WTO, made the statement on Taipei's application for entry into the body.
"The chairman ... stated that as a part of the understanding, the representation of Chinese Taipei [referring to Taiwan] in GATT would be along the same lines as that of Hong Kong and Macau during the course of its status as an observer and subsequently as contracting-party delegation," the statement said.
"The titles carried by its representative would not have any implication on the issue of sovereignty," the statement added, a remark the council had merely "taken note of."
A 1992 classified document belonging to the Ministry of Economic Affairs, obtained by the Taipei Times, dubbed the statement "unwise" and didn't regard it as part of the agreement Taipei endorsed because the remark had never been formally discussed during consultations with the European Community, the US and China.