Saturday, 29 November 2008

Taiwan's scorecard (nice GPA)

Taiwan scored two major diplomatic victories recently:

1. In an official document released ahead of the recent APEC summit, Mr. Ma Ying-jeou, the head of the Taiwanese government, was referred to in his official designation - President. This is a first time since Taiwan joined the APEC in 1991. Moreover, Taiwan was able to send the former Vice President Lien Chan as the head of its APEC delegation this year. Again this is the highest level official from Taiwan to ever participate in an APEC summit. This is ground-breaking, especially if you consider that Taiwan was not allowed even to send officials at Minister level just a few years ago.

2. Taiwan has finally finished its accession talk to the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) and will be joining the WTO-sponsored pluri-lateral agreement in a few days. While Taiwan has finished its accession negotiations since as early as 2002, due to China's opposition over the titles of some of the entities covered by the agreement, six years have passed by without any progress. Unlike other WTO agreements, the GPA deals exclusively with the procurement by government entities, making it a sensitive topic for China. When China and Taiwan both sought the accession to the WTO a few years ago, China insisted on joining the organization before Taiwan to save face. Now that China is willing to let Taiwan join the GPA even before China itself has yet to become a member, this seems to be a major progress in Beijing's way of doing things.

Of course, there is still one question remain: which entities will be included in Annex 1 of Appendix 1 of Taiwan's GPA deal? According to the GPA,  this annex contains central government entities. If Taiwan includes any entity in this annex, does it mean that Taiwan is no longer a sub-central government but should rather be treated as a central government or independent sovereign in its own right? Of course, lawyers may argue that the term "central government" does not necessarily contain sovereignty connotations, but I guess most people (non-lawyers) will agree that the "ordinary meaning" of the term does imply that the government is an independent sovereign.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Seminar on China and WTO dispute settlement

I will be in Brussels next week, visiting the European Commission and several law firms there. On Nov 25th, I will also give a seminar on China and WTO dispute settlement at the European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE), one of the leading think tanks on trade policy in the world. Interested blog readers in Brussels and the vicinity are most welcome to join the seminar. more details on the time, venue, and registration information can be found here.

Teaching WTO dispute settlement to Developing Country officials

For the past week I've been teaching the WTO dispute settlement module at an executive program for developing country officials organized by the newly-created Temasek Foundation Centre for Trade & Negotiations (TFCTN), a policy research centre at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. It is always encouraging to see so many developing country officials who are interested in learning more about WTO dispute settlement. The TFCTN will offer some more similar courses in the years to come. I hope more developing country officials will benefit from this course and other similar initiatives.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Call for papers: Second Biennial General Conference of the Asian Society of International Law (Tokyo, 1-2 August 2009)

The Second Biennial General Conference of the Asian Society of
International Law (following its inaugural conference in Singapore in
2007) will take up the important issue of Asia's relationship with the
international legal order under the main theme of "International Law
in a Multi-polar and Multi-civilizational World - Asian Perspectives,
Challenges and Contributions." The Organizing Committee cordially
invites paper proposals and/or submissions for the event which will be
held on 1-2 August 2009 at the University of Tokyo, Japan. The
deadline for panel proposals is 31December 2008; the deadline for
papers for "regular" panels is 31 January 2009; and the deadline for
discussant papers in the plenary session and agorae papers is 28
February 2009.

Please visit the following website for details of the Tokyo Conference 2009.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Another election

While the attention of the whole world is focused on the US presidential election, WTO Director General Pascal Lamy announced that he will seek a second term. For those of you who watch elections for fun, this one is probably going to be rather disappointing as I don't expect a heavily-contested match at the Centre William Rappard.