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.

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