INTERVIEW: Using “Taiwan” in CPTPP, says former minister


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Nation must break with archaic naming conventions and use “Taiwan” in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), said former finance minister and the country’s first ambassador to the WTO Yen Ching -chang. ‘Liberty Times’ (sister newspaper of the ‘Taipei Times’). He spoke about the history of Taiwan’s role in world trade, its candidacy for membership in the “Anyone But China Club” and the reasons for the suppression of the “Republic of China”.

Yen Ching-chang (顏 慶 章): GATT [General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the predecessor to the WTO] was signed on October 30, 1947. In his many drafts, he made it clear that governments entering as “separate customs territories” essentially lack national sovereignty. the name “Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu”.

Seen from another perspective, Taiwan had no way of competing with China due to international circumstances at the time, forcing the nation to downplay itself by applying not under its official title, but as a so-called ” autonomous entity ”.

This has undeniably minimized our sovereignty, making us suffer in the global trading system ever since.

Photo: Hu Chih-kai, Taipei Times

This became more evident in 1992, when a working group was formed to approve our request, followed by a series of bilateral trade negotiations. During a review meeting, the [GATT] The President specifically mentioned that the representative of Taiwan throughout his term as an observer and then as a full member should be “along the same lines” as that of Hong Kong and Macao. Not only that, but the titles used by the representatives of Taiwan could not have diplomatic connotations.

So this whole process basically showed that because of the name on our request, we have no sovereignty and therefore all follow-up meetings and negotiations would continue to violate our national dignity.

NEW GLOBAL AGREEMENTS

When we joined the WTO [in 2002], the attitude in Geneva [Switzerland] towards Taiwan was completely different from today’s global attitude.

Because we had used the name “separate customs territory”, we were forced to call our delegations “economic and trade offices” in a similar convention in Hong Kong and Macao. All in all, apart from the few small countries with which we had diplomatic relations, most nations have tried to avoid the subject like the plague. The situation is now totally different.

When [former US] President Barack Obama formed the TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership], he has repeatedly invited Taiwan to join, even going so far as to say that the point [of the trade bloc] was to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also referred to this in his address to the US Congress, making it clear that we must seek free and democratic economic cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region and in doing so exclude members who demonstrate commitment. ‘intimidation. At the time, most people around the world called the TPP the “Anyone but China Club”.

JOIN THE CPTPP OF JAPAN

As part of its “America First” policy, [former US] President Donald Trump withdrew from the TPP after his election, but maintained a strong presence in the region through trade and politics that have deeply intimidated China.

Since the withdrawal of the United States, Abe has led the other 11 members to conclude the pact in 2018, making Japan the leader of the new CPTPP. Then, over the past few years, Japan has expressed strong support for Taiwan, although there are admittedly a few details that have rocked Japan, like the Fukushima food security issue. [After the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster, Taiwan banned food from five Japanese prefectures.]

In fact, relations between Taiwan and Japan are very good in some areas. Since the Taiwanese gave more money to Japan after the [2011] tsunami and power plant disaster than any other country, Japan is grateful for and has shown its sincerity through politics.

This year just happens to be Japan’s turn to lead the CPTPP, but her term will be over in less than two months. It’s a shame because, if Taiwan had acted a little earlier, it could have worked with Japan. Instead, we’ve wasted all that time from the inception of the CPTPP in 2018 until now.

NAMES MATTER

Our request to join the CPTPP follows the naming convention of our GATT 1990 request. What is important to remember is that this designation of “separate customs territory” comes from the GATT charter. We cannot ignore that it is used for a non-sovereign entity. If Taiwan is forced to resign itself to this title, there is nothing we can do.

As I said, in 1990 we applied under the name “separate customs territory” and then two years later, in September and October 1992, the Director General accepted our application. At that meeting, the Chairman further stated that the representative would be “hereinafter referred to as Chinese Taipei”, thereby also giving us this title under GATT.

The way we translate it to Zhonghua Taibei (中華 台北) sounds awful, but it saves face. If it was translated directly from English, would the Taiwanese accept this name? It happened in 1992; Would the Taiwanese today be ready to make such a concession?

POWERFUL FRIENDS

Today, Taiwan’s international situation has improved a lot. The United States offers support in many areas, and it has only become firmer and more evident since [US President Joe] Biden took office.

We will of course not be talking about countries that do not have a geopolitical relationship with the CPTPP, but among those that do, Japan is the largest. There is also Australia, which has already said it wants to align with Japan and Canada. In the past, Canada has not expressed a clear position on Taiwan, but because of the [Technologies] situation, he realized the pressure exerted by China on its neighbors, including Canada.

The CPTPP therefore requires of course a consensus among its 11 members, the same as the WTO. In this consensus, we can imagine that if only one country opposes it, no matter how big or small, Taiwan cannot join. However, we must also have confidence, because it also only takes one country to oppose China’s entry.

ALREADY “TAIWAN”

As for the change of our name, I think that could be discussed in future negotiations.

Alternatively, another major member such as Japan could do what they did during the Tokyo Olympics and directly say “Taiwan” instead of “Chinese Taipei”. This is already happening internationally.

For example, in all government documents and statements since the severance of ties in 1979, the United States has called us Taiwan; he never used “Chinese Taipei”. It’s the same with Australia – none of the countries with the most economic weight in the CPTPP will call us the “Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu”, so we shouldn’t minimize ourselves either. .

I will not say that it is impossible to change the name on our app. If possible, we could work with some big countries like Japan, Canada and Australia to reach consensus with other members.

A CHOICE

So of course there is only one choice of name. The Republic of China is certainly not an option, as there are a lot of arenas where the use of this name is not possible.

Diplomacy is an extension of home affairs, but our domestic conversation around it is frankly confusing.

If we insist on using the Republic of China, it is too similar to the People’s Republic of China in English and therefore untenable internationally.

Since we cannot accept “Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu”, the best compromise is “Taiwan”.

However, there are still some Taiwanese who refuse to use this name, which makes it impossible to speak with consistency at home and adds a lot of difficulty when trying to say which country you are from or which government you represent in the country. foreigner.

FIRST, THE CONSENSUS

I want to encourage all Taiwanese to think about it: since we pulled out of the UN in 1971, we have called ourselves the Republic of China, but now that term has no place to survive on the international stage.

How should we envision arousing national pride with the consensus of all peoples? Most importantly, we must first be proud of this land before we can become great; we cannot wait to become great before identifying ourselves as a nation.

We have to do it now, because if we don’t change, in the next 50 years, where will we be?

Reporting by Ou Hsiang-yi, Liu Yan-chen and Hu Chih-kai

Translated by Kayleigh Madjar

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