The Magazine

Beijing's WTO Double-cross

Surprise! China is trying to keep Taiwan out of the World Trade Organization

Aug 14, 2000, Vol. 5, No. 45 • By JOHN R. BOLTON
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But the fundamental point is that it is the PRC's approach that is illegitimate, not Taiwan's. It is China that is breaching the non-political nature of the World Trade Organization by inserting this entirely political question, and Taiwan that is defending the WTO's integrity by resisting. The people being intransigent and uncooperative here are from Beijing, not Taipei. If the United States and others succumb to the PRC's ploy, not only will Beijing likely succeed against Taipei, but it will also severely damage the WTO's ability to insulate itself from other extraneous, non-trade issues.

Defending the integrity of the WTO against Beijing's efforts to politicize it reflects a deep commitment both to the principle of free trade and to the long-term viability of the WTO as an institution. These are legitimate trade issues, on which both proponents and opponents of permanent normal trade relations status for China should be able to agree. When it reconvenes in September, Congress should make it unmistakably clear that China's efforts to score points off Taiwan are flatly unacceptable. Before voting on China's trade status, the Senate leadership should have President Clinton obtain from Beijing public, unequivocal statements that it endorses Taiwan's WTO membership, accepts the 1992 agreement on the accession process, and will abjure any effort whatever to impose political conditions. There should be no compromise on this point.

John R. Bolton is the senior vice president of the American Enterprise Institute. During the Bush administration, he served as the assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs.