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Mission, Tasks, and Challenges
Cause – a response to the trends of international economic and trade developments:
Taiwan acceded to the World Trade Organization (WTO) on January 2002, a step forward in merging with the worldwide system of multilateral trade. In 2008, Taiwan ranked as the eighteenth largest trading country, having a gross export of 496.1 billion US dollars, a 6.47% increase from that of 2007. External trade has always played a role as the key driver of economic growth for Taiwan. A governmental agency having clear objectives and corresponding powers and responsibilities, and a trade negotiation body having the necessary professional skills and experiences in handling foreign-related matters, are both required for Taiwan to foster favorable conditions for its external trade, and to pursue long-term national interests.
In recent years, globalization trends have spurred the rapid development of international trade. In order to maintain their respective advantages in such a highly competitive game, all competitive countries are putting their best effort in striving for favorable trading conditions. One specific method is to utilize the synergy between multilateral and bilateral approaches. The implementation of said method would be to create favorable trading conditions under multilateral frameworks, such as the WTO, and to further strengthen existing advantages by making bilateral trade arrangements, such as signing free trade agreements.
On the basis of said trends of international development, the Taiwan Government officially established on 30 March 2007 the Office of Trade Negotiations (OTN), which is charged with the responsibility of carrying out multilateral, regional, and bilateral trade negotiations for the Government. The Office will provide Taiwan with a considerable boost in its strength in negotiations with foreign countries.
Mission and Tasks:
Missions of the OTN:
1. Formulate overall trade negotiation strategies on the basis of a thorough understanding of the trends of international trade developments, and, draft overall strategy for trade negotiations with foreign countries;
2. Pay close attention to the developments in international economic and trade rules, and bring domestic policies and codes in line with international regulations;
3. Formulate a consolidated position for each negotiation issue by coordinating through communication the positions of different governmental agencies;
4. Participate on behalf of the Government in multilateral and bilateral trade negotiations, and, safeguard and promote national interests.
The negotiation issues that the OTN is tasked with can be divided into the following seven categories: agriculture, non-agricultural product market access, trade in services, rules and intellectual property rights, dispute settlement and legal consultation, trade and development, and other issues (such as trade facilitation, trade and the environment, etc).
Challenges and goals:
1. Establishment of a modus operandi for coordination through close cooperation between the OTN and relevant competent authorities for strengthening of our standing in trade negotiations, and, formulation of overall trade negotiation strategies in line with national development policies and in response to developments in international trade;
2. Active participation in the WTO Doha Round negotiations;
3. Undertaking of bilateral FTA negotiations, broadened efforts to seek FTAs with other countries, and mitigation of unfavorable impacts due to FTA signed between other countries;
4. Strengthening of external communication with domestic and oversea targets such as enterprises, academia, and foreign representations in Taiwan, and, extensive collection of information as reference for drafting negotiation strategies and positions on different issues;
5. Enhancement of public awareness and understanding towards international economic affairs by means of external communication, lectures, and briefings;
6. Strengthening of professional capabilities and experiences of our trade negotiation team.
Consolidation of Taiwan-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), laying the foundation for Taiwan-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA)
Taiwan and the US signed on September 1994 the Taiwan-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), which serves as the most important platform for both sides to promote trade, investments, and commercial relationships.
The previous TIFA meeting was held by DENG Cheng-chung, Chief Negotiator for OTN, and Karan Bhatia, Deputy US Trade Representative, in July 2007 at Washington D.C. The meeting saw bilateral consultations on issues such as US-South Korea FTA, Taiwan-US FTA, investments, taxation, government procurement agreements, illegal textile transshipments, agricultural product quarantine, pharmaceutical issues, intellectual property right protection, and export control, and gained substantial progress.
Seeking for international trade agreements
After its establishment, the OTN was tasked with consultative negotiations of ancillary agreements, such as uniform regulations, relating to the El Salvador-Honduras-Taiwan FTA, allowing the agreement to go into effect on March 2008. In addition, negotiations were conducted which facilitated Taiwan’s accession to the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) of the WTO.
Emphasis on dialogue and communication, promotion of the attainment of objectives
International trade negotiations are crucial to the interests of businesses and the people. In addition to inviting industrial and business associations to participate in the coordination of relevant issues, the OTN also attaches importance to liaisons with the Legislature and the media. The OTN also maintains frequent and regular interactions with missions in Taiwan from main trading partners such as the US, Japan, and the EU, and receives visiting delegations from the US Congress, administration, and academia, strengthening the foundation for a Taiwan-US FTA.
Effective coordination of issue positions, active participation in negotiations of the WTO Doha Round
Negotiation issues of the WTO Doha Round comprise agricultural negotiations, non-agricultural market access (NAMA), negotiations on Trade in Services, negotiations on rules (including anti-dumping, Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures, and regional trade agreements), intellectual property rights, trade and the environment, trade facilitation, rules governing dispute settlement, trade and development, a wide range of issues involving inter-agency matters.
The OTN actively coordinates the overall position of Taiwan and positions on individual issues at the negotiations of the Doha Round, where members of the OTN partake in the negotiations. This allows for international, multilateral trading institutions to see increased participation from Taiwan, maximizing its national interest.
Establishment of the legal team for enhancing capability with respect to economic and trade laws
For the purpose of enhancing Taiwan’s capability of handling trade-related legal affairs, the OTN has established a legal team, consisting of one negotiation representative for legal issues, two legal advisors, a plurality of trade law commercial secretaries, professional legal assistants, and administrative assistants. This is the Government’s first team that is tasked specifically with legal affairs related to international trade.
The legal team mainly assists in the legal aspects of negotiations, such as drafting of agreement documents, providing government agencies with consultations on questions relating to international trade laws. On the one hand, the legal team inspects if domestic policies and codes are in line with international agreements and regulations, on the other hand, the team monitors if measures adopted by foreign governments are in violation of international agreements, creating trade barriers. The team also participates in negotiations for amending WTO dispute settlement rules.
Since its establishment in August 2007, the legal team has actively utilized the WTO dispute settlement mechanism, and has in multiple instances participated as a third party (country) in dispute cases, providing thereto Taiwan’s legal opinion. In light of information technology (IT) products exported by Taiwan being levied a custom tariff by the European Union (EU), an act in violation of EU’s commitment to comply with WTO obligations, a case against the EU was brought forward to the WTO in August 2008. This was the first case brought forward by Taiwan as a complainant that utilized WTO dispute settlement mechanisms and entered into substantive trial for the protection of interests of Taiwan’s industry and for the removal of trade barriers.