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Taiwan lifts objections to Chinese judge at WTO

by Staff Writers
Geneva (AFP) Nov 27, 2007
Taiwan on Tuesday lifted its objections to the appointment of a Chinese judge to the World Trade Organisation's top court, ending a row that threatened to paralyse the institution, trade sources said.

Taiwan had voiced "deep concerns" regarding the impartiality of Zhang Yeujiao, a Chinese lawyer set to become a judge on the seven-member Appelate Body that issues rulings on key trade disputes.

The WTO said in a statement Tuesday that Zhang Yuejiao would begin her four-year term on the Appelate Body on June 1, 2008.

The objections last Monday caused rulings on WTO disputes to be suspended for more than a week, sparking annoyance and consternation among other members of the global trade body.

With the dispute resolved, the WTO was able to resume its regular work and decided on Tuesday to rule on a complaint by the United States over Chinese import restrictions on cultural goods such as books, music and DVDs.

China and the US are increasingly at loggerheads at the WTO. Washington is now engaged in four separate disputes with the Asian economic giant.

The latest case focuses on Chinese laws that prevent US companies in China from importing books, music, videos and other protected goods on their own and requires them instead to work through state-approved or state-run companies.

Brazil and Canada were also able to file requests for rulings at the Dispute Settlement Body, which handles complaints from WTO members, over what they claim are illegal agricultural subsidies by the United States.

Taiwan had come under intense pressure from all other 150 WTO members to drop its objections to the Chinese lawyer. The impasse risked leaving the disputes announced Tuesday in abeyance, creating a serious logjam.

The chair of the Dispute Settlement Body, which approved the nomination of the judges, said that existing rules and processes were sufficient to ensure fair treatment for all.

"These rules and procedures ensure that the interests of all WTO members in a fair and impartial appeals procedure are safeguarded, and they provide all WTO members with the necessary assurance of impartiality and independence," chairman Bruce Gosper said.

Three other judges have also been appointed: Lilia Bautista of the Philippines, Jennifer Hillman of the United States and Shotaro Oshima of Japan, the WTO said.

Beijing regards Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting to be reunified by force if necessary. The two sides split at the end of a civil war in 1949.

Taiwan, under its official name the Republic of China, lost its UN seat to China in 1971 and is now only recognised diplomatically by 24 countries.

Taiwan had been alone in its opposition to the Chinese lawyer.

India's ambassador to the WTO, Ujal Singh Bhatia, said last Friday that "everybody is of the same opinion and there is only one member who is not."

While Beijing has consistently blocked Taiwan's efforts to join United Nations bodies, it has made an exception for international economic organisations such as the WTO.

To avoid a political spat, the WTO refers to Taiwan as the "Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu," or plain "Chinese Taipei."

Taiwan on Tuesday stressed that no player in the WTO's dispute settlements mechanism should ever seek instruction or opinion from its own country, trade sources said.

China meanwhile said that the entire process had been transparent and efficient and that a balanced slate of candidates had been presented, the sources added.

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EU leaders: China must handle trade surplus, open markets
Beijing (AFP) Nov 27, 2007
Top European leaders said Tuesday that China must deal with its ballooning trade surplus, protect intellectual property and open its markets a day ahead of an EU-China summit.

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