Regardless of the name given to Taiwan's mission to the WTO in the trade body's new directory, its rights and obligations will not be affected, a WTO spokesman said yesterday.
Beijing is pressuring the WTO to downgrade the name of Taiwan's mission in the directory, which contains contact details, such as phone numbers, of WTO member states' missions in Geneva.
Noting that the directory has not been updated for three years, WTO chief spokesman Keith Rockwell said in a phone interview that differences between Beijing and Taipei that are delaying an update of the phonebook are "a political problem."
The problem, said Rockwell, is "beyond the scope of the WTO," but the WTO is trying to find ways forward and compromise regarding how to update the phonebook.
He stressed that Taipei's rights in the WTO "will not be affected," regardless of how the new phonebook will be presented.
He also dismissed speculation that China has threatened to block WTO Secretary-General Supachai Panitchpakdi's possible appointment to lead a significant UN agency if he fails to yield to its demand to change the name of Taiwan's mission to the WTO in the directory.
Supachai's term of office as WTO director-general will expire on Aug. 31.
China wants to reduce the status of Taiwan's mission in the directory to that of Hong Kong and Macau, and remove all words containing sovereignty connotations from letters exchanged between the WTO and the mission, according to Taiwanese officials familiar with WTO operations.
China, which has vigorously sought to lower the status of Taiwan's mission, pressured Supachai to alter the name of the mission and its diplomats' titles by threatening to affect the official's chance to lead the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNITAD), sources said.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan last month proposed Supachai as a candidate to head UNITAD. China, however, suggested that his possible appointment be suspended as Annan had not informed 77 developing countries of his selection of Supachai in advance, according to sources.
By threatening to block Supachai's possible assignment to lead UNITAD, sources said, China intended to compel him to yield to its demand to change the name of Taiwan's mission and its diplomats' titles in the new directory.
Rockwell, however, dismissed this as rumors.
"I have no reason to believe that is true," he said.
The official name of the Taiwan mission to the WTO in Geneva is "Permanent Mission of the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu to the World Trade Organization."
China wants the WTO Secretariat to replace "permanent mission" with "office of permanent representative" in the directory, according to a Taiwanese official, who requested anonymity.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (
The Swiss government has conferred the titles of "ambassador" and "minister," respectively, on Yen Ching-chang (
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