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Word Count: 367
Taiwan is preparing to offer foreign insurers improved access to its domestic market as part of an agreement to secure membership in the World Trade Organization But the islands prickly relations with China may put off the realization of these benefits for several years Taiwan officials say they have all but completed negotiations with WTO members on the terms of its entry into the trade body-negotiations that began in 1992 Taiwans government promises to open the market for reinsurance and insurance services such as claim settlement and actuarial services for both the life and nonlife insurance sectors and to lift all restrictions on foreign companies offering such services in Taiwan a trade official in Geneva said In addition the government will grant foreign companies unrestricted access to provide direct insurance and insurance intermediation services for maritime shipping and commercial aviation Taiwan wants to maintain a ban on sales and marketing of life accident and health insurance by nonresident companies and a requirement that foreign life insurance agents and brokers with offices in Taiwan must employ at least one person who has secured a local agents or brokers license But Taiwans hopes of acceding to the organization by years end are being stymied by its half-century rivalry with mainland China Beijing describes the island as a renegade province and insists that Chinas 13-year effort to join the WTO must be successfully wrapped up before Taiwan can join the trade body Unfortunately for Taiwan that view carries weight among the WTOs 134strong membership in particular developing countries that have close diplomatic relations with Beijing To make matters worse Hong Kong which maintains a separate seat in the WTO despite its July 1997 handover to China has so far declined to sign off on a bilateral trade agreement it negotiated with Taiwan Under WTO rules an applicant cant be admitted to the organization until it has completed successful negotiations with all
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