- The Washington Times - Monday, November 12, 2001

DOHA, Qatar The World Trade Organization (WTO) yesterday formally approved the entry of Taiwan into the 142-member group, in a move that was to increase Taipei's economic integration with China, which joined on Saturday.
"You have just made a very wise and important decision," Taiwanese Economic Affairs Minister Lin Hsin-i told WTO ministers. "Taiwan will honor its commitment by following the rules of the WTO and actively participating in all its work."
Beijing welcomed Taiwan's entry but ruled out direct trade links unless Taipei acknowledged China's sovereignty over the island.
Taiwan's accession, the subject of a three-year negotiation, didn't offend Chinese sensibilities because WTO members must be "separate customs territories," not countries. Nonetheless, China skipped yesterday's entry ceremony.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick was one of the first to congratulate Taiwan, noting it had transformed itself into an economic powerhouse in the past two decades while building a democratic system of government.
"Taiwan is a striking model for others to follow, and I hope they will," he said.
As the WTO entered the home stretch of its five-day meeting in Qatar, it faced a thorny dispute over agriculture, a bone of contention in trade talks for 50 years.
With two days left to strike a deal on beginning new negotiations to clear away impediments to global commerce, the European Union was resisting demands for an overhaul of its costly farm-subsidy program.
But most diplomats, eager to erase the legacy of a failed meeting in Seattle two years ago, expressed optimism that a deal was within reach.
"There is obvious apprehension, but people are being creative and they are talking," WTO Director-General Michael Moore said as he headed to a 1 a.m. meeting.
With talks stretching late into the evening, trade officials were wrestling over the precise language of the declaration that trade ministers hoped to issue by tomorrow.
Apart from agriculture, the United States was on the defensive over calls for changes to U.S. trade laws that penalized imports, while rich and poor nations entered intensive talks to clarify patent rules to ensure that nations in Latin America and Africa had access to life-saving medications, especially for AIDS.
Conflicting pressures are tugging the agriculture talks in various directions. The European Union wants to water down demands that it eliminate subsidies for exports of food products. But a broad coalition of countries, led by Australia, Canada, Brazil and Argentina, want tougher rules, saying the subsidies reward inefficient European farmers.
The United States also was defending its laws that penalized exports that were selling into the American market at prices lower than they were selling in their own markets, a practice known as "dumping." Other countries are demanding a negotiation to change U.S. laws, which they say serve only to protect uncompetitive industries.
Washington has virtually no allies, setting up hard compromises if the talks in Doha are to succeed. "There is one group that is us, then there is everybody else," a senior U.S. official said.
Rep. Sander M. Levin, Michigan Democrat and the only member of Congress in Doha, met with Japanese and Korean officials to make the U.S. case.
"We cannot agree to a negotiation on this subject," he said.


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