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My introduction to questions of GATT membership came in 1979 when, as an attorney in the U.S. Department of State, I was immersed in a series of issues concerning trade relations with the People's Republic of China ("China" or "PRC") and Taiwan ("Republic of China" or "ROC"). I kept hearing about the "Chinese seat" in the GATT as if it were some piece of furniture waiting to be taken out of storage and put back in the dining room. The image of a chair is hardly an apt way of visualizing the extraordinarily complex network of legal relationships that exists within the GATT, but the unfortunate metaphor persists. The People's Republic of China has applied to the GATT to "resume the seat" that no one has sat in for more than forty years, and a separate application from Taiwan leads some to wonder whether there can be two "Chinese chairs" in what seems to be a rather crowded banquet hall. With the same imagery, questions are also being asked about the "Soviet seat" on the U.N. Security Council and in other international bodies.

Let's have an antique dealer cart off all the chairs so that we can think sensibly and imaginatively about complex structures of legal relationships – within the GATT, with GATT Contracting Parties in their evolving trade relations with China and Taiwan, between China and Taiwan, within the disintegrating Soviet empire, and between the emergent ex-Soviet entities and the rest of the world.

I would like to focus on a set of problems suggested by the China-Taiwan-GATT problem, but which also cut across a number of other relationships. These are the problems of inclusion in the multilateral trading structure (GATT-based) of entities (not just "states," but a broader set of political units) that are basically market-oriented or striving to be market-oriented, but which stand in an unresolved political relationship with a giant non-market economy ("NME"). Taiwan is of course the principal example for purposes of today's conference, but we could also include Hong Kong and Macao in the shadow of China, and any number of entities in the shadow of the Soviet Union – the three Baltic republics, other former Soviet republics struggling to sort out their political and economic future, and the East European states which were formerly integrated into the COMECON trading bloc and which are now trying to figure out how to privatize their economies without suffering a complete rupture of longstanding relationships within the former bloc. This set of problems can illuminate a more basic issue that the world community will have to face increasingly in the next few years – the question of reconceptualizing participation in international organizations in a changing world. International organizations were created by "states" to serve the needs of "states," but pressures are mounting on the state system as we have known it, and new solutions to novel questions will have to be found.

In the first two parts of this paper I isolate the questions of "Taiwan and the GATT" and "non-market economies and the GATT." Then in the third part I take up the complications that arise when the place in the GATT system of a market-oriented entity, such as Taiwan, cannot be isolated from that entity's political relationship with a major non-market economy.


International Law | International Trade Law | Law