Officials remain silent about WTO agreement

By Lee Yu-hsin and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Fri, Nov 23, 2012 - Page 3

A review by the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense committee of the WTO’s Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA) came to a standstill yesterday, after Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Simon Ko (柯森耀) and other officials were unable or unwilling to comment on the matter.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said that under Article 1 of the GPA, the term “country includes any separate customs territory that is a Party to this Agreement. In the case of a separate customs territory that is a Party to this Agreement, where an expression in this Agreement is qualified by the term ‘national,’ such expression shall be read as pertaining to that customs territory, unless otherwise specified.”

Saying that Taiwan had joined the WTO under the name the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu, Tsai criticized the agreement and said it was beyond comprehension why terms that betrayed Taiwan’s sovereignty and debased its national standing had been agreed to.

Tsai said that because China had applied to join the GPA this year, he worried that the GPA document next year would place Taiwan as “China’s Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu.”

Tsai said the contents of Article 1 of the Agreement on Government Procurement was the equivalent of the demise of Taiwan as a nation, adding that “the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) wouldn’t even be needed anymore.”

DPP legislators Chiu Yi-ying (邱議瑩) and Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) asked why Taiwan saw only NT$700 million (US$24 million) a year in commercial sales from the agreement, when the government had said the GPA would create commercial opportunities worth NT$1.2 trillion.

Chiu said the Public Construction Commission had provided false data, saying that 86 percent of bids through the GPA were from companies that invested in international bids put out by other Taiwanese companies and not direct bids placed by international companies.

Chiu called on the commission to provide accurate numbers.

Meanwhile, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Ting Shou-chung (丁守中) compared the situations of Taiwan and the US after both acceded to the GPA.

The US had been very careful and even as it opened up, it also made many policies that protected its domestic market, Ting said, while Taiwan did exactly the opposite.

“We just open our doors wide, but do nothing else,” Ting said, adding that it has led to South Korea and other Southeast Asian countries emulating Taiwanese technology, and then selling similar products for lower prices and displacing Taiwanese firms’ market share.

However, for the entire session, Ko had very little to say.

“At least the signing of the GPA was a good beginning,” he said, remaining silent afterward and refusing to answer questions.

Officials from the Public Construction Commission and the Ministry of Economic Affairs were also unable to answer the questions put to them by legislators.

Even KMT Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方), the committee chair, could not stomach the lack of answers by Ko and the other officials.

“Did the Ministry of Foreign Affairs think that they could make it through a Legislative Yuan session with such a disorganized presentation?” Lin asked.