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May 27, 2017

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WTO delegate denies ceding ground in talks

The nation's newly appointed representative to the World Trade Organization (WTO), Lai Shin-yuan, defended herself yesterday after lawmakers called on President Ma Ying-jeou to rescind her appointment.

Earlier, lawmakers urged President Ma to retract the appointment due to Lai's alleged failure to safeguard the Republic of China's sovereignty when negotiating for Taiwan's entrance into the world trade body in 2001.

Lai, a former Mainland Affairs Council chairperson, defended herself in a statement released yesterday, clarifying and refuting allegations made by the legislators, which include Ting Shou-chung of the ruling Kuomintang.

Ting said that during the negotiation process for R.O.C. access to the WTO, Lai easily ceded on issues like the inclusion of Taiwan's formal governmental bodies.

She also agreed to adopt vague and less incendiary terms like "the government" in lieu of "Executive Yuan" (Cabinet), and "the legislature" for "the Legislative Yuan."

Ting said President Ma is not necessarily aware of Lai's past acts of concealing the truth, lying and allowing insults to the nation's dignity and sovereignty. But the president should reconsider and rescind Lai's appointment as the nation's envoy to the WTO after studying relevant documents and materials in archives that can be furnished by relevant government agencies, he said.

Legislator Hsu Wung-hsin of the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) also panned Lai's appointment. In a recent press conference, Hsu said that Lai is not qualified to serve as the nation's WTO envoy.

Hsu alleged that Lai took it upon herself to censor the specific terms that highlighted Taiwanese sovereignty when Taiwan was seeking WTO membership from July to September of 2001 despite antagonism from Beijing.

Lai formerly served as a TSU lawmaker.

In her defense, Lai denied the charges and emphasized that she had held talks with U.S. trade officials and representatives to win their support for the nation's WTO membership bid.

Taiwan was able to win WTO membership with "full and equal" status via the U.S. assistance and coordination with mainland China, she said.

During the negotiation process, Lai said she also conducted intensive talks with more than 20 other WTO member nations in Europe and Southeast Asia to block some WTO officials' efforts to downgrade Taiwan's status in the international trade body.

In addition, Lai suggested an independent and thorough investigation by the Control Yuan, the nation's highest watchdog agency over government employees and departments, to determine whether officials failed to fulfill their responsibilities by sacrificing the nation's dignity and sovereignty due to the political pressure from the WTO Secretariat and mainland China.

In her statement, Lai implied that Yen Ching-chang, Taiwan's first permanent representative to the WTO, may have attempted to compromise the nation's sovereignty.

Responding to Lai's allegation, Yen said yesterday that she should directly answer questions raised by the lawmakers rather than dragging him into the dispute.

Yen said he was commended by the government for his contributions and thus able to serve as the WTO envoy until 2005.

Yen, who formerly worked as one of the WTO negotiators and once served as finance minister, is presently chairman of Yuanta Financial Holdings Co.

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