On 20 February 1998, Taiwan and the United States reached a
market-opening agreement which will help clear the way for Taiwan to
join the world trade organization. The Taipei-Washington agreement
provides for a further opening of Taiwan's markets to U.S.
agricultural products, services and industrial goods. Under the
February 20th accord, Taiwan had agreed to open its markets to U.S.
pork, poultry and rice.
Under WTO accession rules, any WTO member can request such "bilaterals''
with a proposed member and effectively block its entry until
bilateral trade differences are resolved.
Taiwan has hammered out deals with all but two of the 26 members
that sought bilaterals. It is expected that these will be finalized
by April 1998, clearing the way for Taiwan's acession to the WTO.
The only two remaining holdouts are the European Union and
Switzerland. During the period 23-27 February 1998, Taiwan and the
European Union held talks to iron out their trade differences.
During the four days of negotiations Taipei agreed to a series of
liberalisation measures to open its service sectors and reduce
tariffs on industrial products. On 27 February it was announced that
the major differences had been cleared away, but that disputes over
tariffs on cars and wine prevented the two sides from finalising a
In a speech in San Jose, California, WTO Director General Renato
Ruggiero applauded Taiwan's progress towards membership in the world
trading body, and rejected the idea that China should be admitted
ahead of Taiwan.
He emphasized that each country is admitted on its own merits: "Taiwan
does not depend on China. The negotiations of Taiwan are progressing
well,'' Ruggiero said. "At the WTO, we are not, fortunately,
ruled by political principles."
The United States has also emphasized on several occasions that
the application process of Taiwan and China are not linked. Most
recently, on 11 March 1998, US Deputy Trade Representative Richard
Fisher referred to Taiwan's application and stated that "...each
country that petitions the WTO for access does so on its own merits."
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