LETTERS

TAIWAN'S WTO ENTRY

NOT IN US INTERESTI read with interest Greg Mastel's article, ''Let Taiwan into WTO Now'' (Aug. 14, Page 8A), in which he argues that the United States should rally for Taiwan's accession to the World Trade Organization irrespective of China.

Mr. Mastel correctly points out that Taiwan ''deserves'' to join the Geneva-based trade organization on the basis of that country's commitment to freer trade and economic liberalization; Mr. Mastel is also right in noting that China, seemingly reluctant to put a serious WTO offer on the table, is not yet deserving of membership.

However, in calling for the United States to support Taiwan's independent accession to the Geneva-based organization, Mr. Mastel offhandedly dismisses the implications of shooting pointed arrows at Beijing's ''One China'' policy - and he fails to make a convincing argument as to why Taiwan's accession is really in the U.S. interest.

On the first point, the United States must be consistent in its policies with an important country like China - failing to do so could jeopardize relations with that country and could even have security implications.

On the second point, Taiwan's joining, the WTO would no doubt strengthen the world trading system, but there is little evidence that Taiwan's accession would in the immediate future mean much for U.S. business or for the U.S. economy.

Even under the false pretense that much is to be gained economically from Taiwan's admission, open U.S. support for Taiwan would almost surely dampen ongoing U.S. efforts to get China to limit weapons sales, as well as to improve its record in human rights and to accelerate trade liberalization plans. This is not inconsequential with the Jiang-Clinton Summit set to take place in Washington this October.

In sum, the mad rush to get Taiwan into the WTO accomplishes very little. And given Beijing's obvious sensitivities, current positive developments in U.S.-China relations could be scuttled if the United States plays the Taiwan card.

Keeping the Taiwan-WTO issue off the table while maintaining a steady approach to China-related issues is the wiser course for the United States.

Our close ally - Taiwan - understands better than anyone why we might opt for the status quo rather than invite confrontation with China. They will eventually forgive us for not taking up their WTO cause in 1997, and gosh, the world trading system will somehow endure.

Robert E. Cunningham Trade Analyst

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