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Taiwan Enters WTO After Long Quest

January 01, 2002|From Reuters

Taiwan formally joins the World Trade Organization today after a decade-long bid to enter the global trading club, raising hopes for better ties with its giant neighbor China.

Although Taiwan, the world's 14th-largest trading economy, has fought for admission since 1990, it will bring mixed blessings to the island of 23 million people.

WTO membership will mean mostly cheaper prices for consumers, but it is certain to hurt agriculture and labor-intensive industries and cause already record-high unemployment levels to rise even further.

Taiwan's "Asian Tiger" economy is set to post its first full-year contraction this year, and competition from powerful multinational firms will bring tough challenges to local companies.

But Finance Minister Yen Ching-chang said any initial shock would be a price worth paying.

"Under pressure from mainland China, we are unable to join the political United Nations," Yen told a forum on Taiwan's WTO accession. "Joining the economic United Nations, the WTO, is definitely positive for raising our international status."

Officials have held out hopes that the dual entry of Taiwan and China to the world trade body would usher in a year of reconciliation and help ease bitter political differences.

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