Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Tough trade negotiator to chair Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council

It has been announced today that Lai Shin-yuan, former legislator of the pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union, will become the head of the Mainland Affairs Council in Ma Ying-jeou's new cabinet.

A veteran trade negotiator, Lai has a reputation of being tough and enjoys playing brinksmanship in negotiations. While Chen Shui-bian might be a hardliner on political issues, Lai takes an even harder position than Chen on many trade issues. It was her who petitioned Chen to grant special amnesty to Yang Ju-men, the "rice-bomber" who was arrested in 2004, because, in her words, Yang's bombing campaign against WTO-mandated rice imports "awakened society's conscience about the treatment of farmers." It was her who slammed Yen Ching-chan, Taiwan's former representative to the World Trade Organization, for denigrating Taiwan's status in the WTO when he lost Taiwan's fight with China over the proper title of the Taiwanese diplomats. According to Lai, the 1992 Chairman's Statement on Taiwan's status in the WTO has no legal status in the WTO and thus should not be relied upon. It was her who forced China to negotiate directly with Taiwan by launching the first safeguard action Taiwan has ever taken against China. With her at the helm of Taiwan's top agency for its China policy, including trade policy, it seems that the Pandora's box is about to be opened. Of course, this would create ample opportunities for entrepreneurial lawyers.

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