WTO faces crisis over China-Taiwan row - chairman

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GENEVA, Nov 23 (Reuters) The World Trade Organisation (WTO) is facing a crisis as an unresolved row between China and Taiwan blocks its crucial trade dispute work, the chairman of the WTO's dispute settlement body said today.

Taiwan stopped a meeting on Monday of the body, which rules on trade disputes worth billions of dollars, when it blocked the appointment of China's first judge on the WTO's highest court through the procedural device of objecting to the agenda.

''I as chair have to say I am extremely concerned if this situation persists much longer then we will have a crisis in this organisation,'' Australia's WTO ambassador Bruce Gosper, who chairs the dispute settlement body, told reporters.

He said after a meeting of WTO delegation heads that the rest of the WTO's 151 members were unanimous in wanting the meeting to go ahead with the disputed agenda item on nominations to the appellate body still in place.

WTO decisions are taken by consensus, so even one member can veto a proposal.

Gosper said he would continue to hold consultations with WTO members. Taiwan's move threatens to aggravate tensions with China.

But so far Beijing has reacted calmly, saying it still hoped the appointment would be approved and calling for consultations on to solve the dispute.

REUTERS RC RN1901

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