Taiwan into the WTO

Washington, 11 March 1998

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 deal.

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."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Back to: News and Current Events