Thu, Nov 29, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Taipei ends boycott of WTO judge

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA AND AFP , GENEVA AND TAIPEI

Taipei said yesterday that the WTO had allayed its fears concerning the impartiality of a Chinese judge appointed to its top court, which had threatened to turn into major international row.

"After candid and sincere negotiations with ranking WTO officials, we have been guaranteed that the WTO's rules would ensure the body's impartiality in resolving disputes," Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Phoebe Yeh (葉非比) said. "We therefore ended our boycott of the appointment."

Zhang Yuejiao (張月姣), a Chinese lawyer, was appointed as a judge on the WTO's Appellate Body on Tuesday after Taiwan dropped its objections.

Taiwan, which had expressed deep concerns over Zhang's impartiality, decided to "show some flexibility" on the matter as an "amicable solution" had been found, a statement by Taiwan's permanent mission to the WTO said.

Taiwan's opposition had resulted in a one-week suspension of the agenda for the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body (DSB).

Sources in Geneva said that in the past week, WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy and DSB chairman Bruce Gosper had repeatedly told Taiwan they would ensure that its rights and privileges continued to be respected and guaranteed by WTO rules and procedures.

Lamy sent a letter to Taiwanese Minister of Economic Affairs Steve Chen (陳瑞隆) to explain the WTO's position on the issue, the sources said.

Michael Wei (魏可銘), Taiwan's deputy permanent representative to the WTO, called the outcome a "great accomplishment."

"We have obtained what we sought, which is fair treatment," he said.

He said that despite the deadlock, Taiwan's concerns had received a great deal of attention by WTO members and that its positive attitude in trying to resolve the issue was roundly commended.

At the DSB meeting on Tuesday, where Zhang's appointment was approved, Taiwan's permanent representative to the WTO, Lin Yi-fu (林義夫), emphasized that no member of the Appellate Body, which issues rulings on key trade disputes, could prejudice the rights of any WTO member, sources said.

Lin said it would be unacceptable for a member of the Appellate Body to receive instructions from the government to which he or she is affiliated, sources said.

Meanwhile, representatives from more than 10 WTO members, including the US, the EU and Japan, stated their confidence in the impartiality of the Appellate Body and commended Taiwan for the flexibility it had shown in trying to resolve the problem.

A WTO statement said that Zhang would begin her four-year term on June 1.

Also appointed to the Appellate Body on Tuesday were Lilia Bautista of the Philippines, Jennifer Hillman of the US and Shotaro Oshima of Japan, the statement said.

Zhang is a professor of law at China's Shantou University. She is an arbitrator on China's International Trade and Economic Arbitration Commission and practices law as a private attorney.

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