Sun, Mar 05, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Government complains to WTO over name changes

CNA , TAIPEI

The government has lodged verbal and written complaints with the WTO over what it argues is the arbitrary removal of Taiwanese officials' titles from a newly updated version of the WTO members directory, an official said yesterday.

"It's regrettable that the WTO Secretariat has once again thrown away its neutrality under China's pressure and arbitrarily deleted the titles of members of our permanent mission at the WTO headquarters," said Michel Lu (呂慶龍), spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).

In the newly released 2006 edition of the WTO members directory, only the top three officials -- the representative and his two deputies -- at the nation's permanent mission in the world body are identified by their titles, while all lower-ranking officials, such as counsellor, first secretary and second secretary, only have their names and main lines of business or areas of expertise listed.

It was the second consecutive year that the WTO Secretariat has unilaterally removed the titles of lower-ranking officials in Taiwan's WTO mission because of pressure from China.

Last year, China succeeded in pressuring the WTO Secretariat to do so for the first time.

Despite Taiwan's repeated protests and negotiations over the past year, the WTO Secretariat failed to make any improvements in this year's edition of its directory, which is essentially an address book for internal use without any legal status.

Lu said the government has again asked its mission to the WTO to lodge a protest with the WTO Secretariat for unilaterally deleting material from the directory and to demand that it be reprinted.

"Duplicate copies of our entry, which contains official titles of all of our WTO mission members, have also been distributed to missions of all other member states," Lu said.

In an apparent reference to its unilateral changes to the entry, the WTO Secretariat reaffirms in this year's directory that the guidebook's contents will in no way affect any member state's legal rights and obligations.

Lu said the title removal is yet another instance of China's relentless, omnipresent diplomatic offensive against Taiwan.

"China has never spared its efforts to shrink our international presence. Local people should not be tricked by China's lip service," he added.

Ever since Taiwan became the WTO's 144th member in January 2002, China has tried repeatedly to change the title of its mission into something that does not imply sovereignty as a state, such as Hong Kong or Macau's Economic and Trade Office, according to Lu.

As Taiwan has a solid legal basis for using "permanent mission" as its official title in the WTO, as well as support from friendly countries, China's attempts to change that title have not been successful, Lu said.

He also described the WTO Secretariat's move as "ignoring the principles of the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization."

He added that the WTO should not allow itself to be threatened by any single member of the Geneva-based trade regulatory organization.

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