As we reported last month, there has been some heated debate over the appointment of Ms Liang-Rong Lin of Taiwan -- or the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu (Chinese Taipei), as it is officially referred to at the WTO -- as the next Chair of the Committee on Government Procurement. Hong Kong, China objects to the appointment; other WTO Members support it. At the October 7-8 General Council meeting, the United States put forward a statement in support of making the appointment.

According to the "Room Document" (RD/GC/16) that contains the U.S. statement, the United States delivered its statement on behalf of Australia, Canada, the European Union, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, New Zealand, Norway, the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu (Chinese Taipei), Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. The statement says the group is bringing the issue to the attention of the General Council "with an increasing sense of concern over the continued impasse."

As explained in the statement, the GPA Committee started its process to select a new Chair in January, and "a significant majority emerged in favour of the candidate from Chinese Taipei." During subsequent meetings, however, Hong Kong, China "intervened to block consensus." In addition, "China, an Observer to the GPA, intervened on the item 'Election of the Committee's next Chair' during the GPA Committee meeting on 2 June 2021 even though the selection of the Chair is a right and privilege reserved only to the GPA Parties." China also intervened during the discussion of this issue in July at the General Council.

The statement then emphasized that "the decision to appoint the GPA Chair will not have any impact on non-GPA Parties as the GPA Chair, like all chairs of WTO committees, has a duty to act in an entirely impartial manner." It also reminded China that "the decision is up to GPA Parties alone, as agreed in the revised GPA, and similar to all other plurilateral agreements."

The statement then says that those parties supporting the appointment are "deeply concerned that the GPA Committee's functioning continues to be undermined," as "[a] continued blockage carries the risk that the GPA Committee will not be able to meet as scheduled later this month, noting that the outgoing Chair departed Geneva on 21 July 2021." This would "seriously affect the functioning of the Agreement."

These parties "therefore urge[d] Hong Kong, China – a WTO Member that has long played a valued and constructive role in the WTO, including the GPA Committee – to reconsider its position and join consensus to appoint the one remaining candidate as the next Chair of the GPA Committee." They also reminded "non-GPA Parties that they are not entitled to engage in the selection of the GPA Committee Chair."