Taiwan on Monday blocked a World Trade Organization meeting that would have appointed new judges to the WTO appeals body, including the first Chinese member.
Chinese attorney Yuejiao Zhang appeared set for nomination to the seven-member panel until Taiwan made the rare move of forcing an adjournment of the monthly meeting of the dispute settlement body, trade officials said.
Taiwan, which is excluded from most international organizations because of Chinese opposition, has seldom flexed its muscles in the WTO, which makes all decisions by consensus.
It joined the body in early 2002, just after China, which has claimed sovereignty over the island since the nationalist government left the mainland in 1949 during China's civil war. Under Beijing's insistence, the WTO admitted "Chinese Taipei" as a tariff territory, rather than a sovereign state.
Taiwan did not mention Zhang by name or say why it wanted to defer the discussion. The WTO confirmed in a statement that the meeting was adjourned because of a Taiwanese objection on the appointment of judges, but did not elaborate.
I'm not sure what the ultimate goal is.
ADDED: Maybe this 2005 story offers a partial explanation:
Beijing is pressuring the WTO to downgrade the name of Taiwan's mission in the directory, which contains contact details, such as phone numbers, of WTO member states' missions in Geneva.
China wants the WTO Secretariat to replace "permanent mission" with "office of permanent representative" in the directory, according to a Taiwanese official, who requested anonymity.
MORE DETAILS: From an Asian news source:
Taiwan on Monday objected to the proposed appointment of a Chinese judge to the World Trade Organisation's top court, citing the possibility of bias.
"We have deep concerns on the question of impartiality and qualification of one of the recommended candidates," the Taiwanese delegation said in a statement.
Taiwan said in its statement that "we will not agree to the adoption of (the) agenda until our concerns have been addressed" but stressed its willingness to hold further discussions.
MORE from Reuters.
AND I suppose this, from September of this year, is another part of the explanation:
The United Nations has once again blocked Taiwan's quest for membership of the world body, despite a huge high-profile campaign by the island.
A key UN committee has rejected a proposal from Taiwan's allies to put its bid on the agenda of the general assembly, meeting now in New York.
China, which claims Taiwan as a province, is adamantly opposed to UN membership for the island.
AND from Radio Taiwan International:
Vice Economics Affairs Minister Hsieh Fadah said on Tuesday that the move was meant to protect Taiwan's rights and interests.
The WTO was on the verge of approving the Chinese lawyer on Monday. He would have become a judge for the WTO's appellate body, which has the final say in the WTO's dispute settlement system. According to Hsieh, this is the first time that a WTO appellate judge appointment has been blocked in this way.
The foreign ministry also said on Tuesday that the move was justified...that's considering China's continued suppression of Taiwan in the international community.
CHINA is not pleased with all of this, obviously:
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao indicated that the Chinese administration still wanted to see the appointment approved.
"I'm sure that the relevant members of the WTO will be able to appropriately resolve this issue through consultations," he told a regular news conference.
But Mr Liu also suggested that China was not happy, leaving open the possibility of greater tensions with Taiwan over the move.
"If someone wants to exploit the occurrence of problems such as this in international organisations - in the WTO - to achieve political ends, we are resolutely opposed," Mr Liu said.
THIS is not much of an update, but it's something at least:
The DSB is not expected to meet on the Appellate Body appointment issue until after all the concerns expressed by member states are clarified or addressed, Hsieh added.
FROM a China Ministry of Foreign Affairs press conference:
Q: In the discussion among WTO members on candidates for its Appellate Body yesterday, representatives from Taiwan expressed their concern that the judge recommended by the Chinese mainland might not be fair in handling trade cases involving Taiwan. Do you have any comment?
A: This is an issue involving personnel arrangements within the WTO. We believe that it will be properly solved through negotiations among relevant WTO members. You can refer to the Ministry of Commerce which is in charge of the WTO issues. I'd like to emphasize that we are firmly opposed to any attempts to bring up this kind of issue in international organizations out of political motives.
TAIWAN says this is not a reprisal:
Taiwan's opposition to the appointment of a Chinese lawyer as an appellate judge of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is by no means retaliatory, but a justified and reasonable action, a trade official said Wednesday.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, made the remarks in response to a foreign wire service report that China once blocked a Taiwanese expert from joining the WTO Committee on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures, so Taiwan disputed the appointment of Zhang Yuejiao as a judge on the Appellate Body, which has a final say in the world trade regulatory organization's dispute settlement system.
According to the official, China indeed refused to accept the accession of Lo Chang-fa, a Taiwanese expert in international trade laws, to an expert panel under the Committee on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures in 2005, but Taiwan's objection to Zhang's appointment was unrelated with that matter.