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Taiwan's 'developed' status will not affect its WTO rights: minister

2018/10/24 20:48:35

Economics Minister Shen Jong-chin (沈榮津, center) / CNA file photo

Taipei, Oct. 24 (CNA) Taiwan's decision to be designated as developed economy in the World Trade Organization (WTO) will not affect its existing rights and interests, Economics Minister Shen Jong-chin (沈榮津) told lawmakers Wednesday.

At a hearing in the legislative Economics Committee, Shen said the government will continue its efforts to protect the interests of Taiwan's agricultural and industrial sectors in future trade negotiations in the WTO.

The minister was invited to brief the committee about the government's preparations for the possible effects of Taiwan's decision on Sept. 14 to change its status in the WTO from a developing to a developed economy, which meant it would no longer be entitled to the favorable treatment accorded to developing members in trade negotiations.

The WTO adopts a "Principle of Self Selection," meaning WTO member states are generally grouped as "developed" or "developing," according to their level of development, and it is up to each member to decide.

The WTO agreements contain provisions that give developing member countries special rights and allow them more favorable treatment.

These special provisions include, for example, longer time periods for implementing agreements and commitments, and measures to increase trade opportunities, according to the WTO website.

Taiwan's decision to change its status to a "developed" economy was applauded by several major WTO members, including the United States, the European Union and Japan, but gave rise to some concerns at home that it would adversely affect its trade negotiations in the WTO.

Shen said, however, that when Taiwan joined the WTO in 2002, it promised to open its agricultural, industrial and services markets in the same way as developed countries so the change of its status now would not make much difference in that regard.

He said Taiwan's change of status in the WTO would show the international community that Taiwan is committed to trade liberalization and will pave the way for its participation in the Comprehensive Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a regional economic bloc.

The people of Taiwan and the industrial and commercial sectors expect the country to make an effort to join the CPTPP, Shen said.

Also on Wednesday, the legislative Finance Committee passed a provisional motion to ask the relevant ministries and governmental departments to assess Taiwan's tariff losses in the agricultural sector as a result of its developed economy status in the WTO and to submit a report to the committee.

At Wednesday's hearing, Council of Agriculture (COA) Minister Lin Tsung-hsien (林聰賢) said livestock farms will bear the brunt if Taiwan lowered tariffs in its trade liberalization efforts.

The COA, however, will help them to modernize and diversify so that they could become more competitive in such an environment, he said, adding that it would take at least eight years for Taiwan's agricultural sector to adjust to free trade under the CPTPP.

The CPTPP, which grew out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership after the U.S. walked away from the pact in January 2017, represents a market of 500 million people and accounts for 13.5 percent of global trade.

The 11 current members -- Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam -- signed the CPTPP in early March.

(By Pan Tzu-yu, Fan Cheng-hsiang and Elizabeth Hsu)