Ambassador Discusses WTO Accession of Taiwan, China

Posted: December 3, 2001 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Elena Barbre

“If all goes as planned, Taiwan will become, with pride, the 144th full member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Jan. 1, 2002,” said C.J. Chen, U.S. representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, in a seminar Friday on the Fairfax Campus. Taiwan, a country one-third the size of Virginia, now has the 17th largest economy in the world. “The WTO cannot ignore Taiwan,” he said.

Chen outlined the changes expected in Taiwan’s economy as a result of its accession, among which are reduced tariffs on industrial and agricultural products imported by Taiwan; reduced restrictions on the supply of telecommunication services; and an overall growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). “By the time Taiwan fulfills most of its accession commitments in 2005, its GDP will have grown by 17.4 percent since 1996,” said Chen. In addition, the employment rate is expected to improve; some sources say the WTO accession will eventually create more than 370,000 new jobs in Taiwan.

The People’s Republic of China has different challenges as its WTO accession approaches next month, since it joins as a developing nation rather than a developed nation like Taiwan. The benefits for China will be numerous as well, including reduced export subsidies on agricultural products; eased restrictions on foreign companies in its mainland; and a modest increase in GDP. Once a member of the WTO, China will face the daunting task of managing the challenges of compliance, said Chen. “It remains to be seen if China can fully implement the WTO agreement.”

Chen envisions increased contact in trade and investment between Taiwan and China as a result of their WTO accession. “The two-way trade relationship will enter a new era,” he said. “This promises substantial benefits for both, including increased economic cooperation and integration. After years of mistrust, Taiwan and China now will find themselves equals in a political and trade framework.” He cautioned that for these benefits to occur, there must be dialogue between the two governments.

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