Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Taiwan Sues ISO over "Province" designation

Radio Taiwan International announced that Taiwan is suing the ISO:

Taiwan is suing the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) over its reference to the country as "Taiwan Province, China" instead of "Republic of China (Taiwan)." This is the first time that Taiwan has taken legal action against an important international organization.

The foreign ministry said Tuesday that Taiwan filed the suit with a Geneva court in July after the ISO failed to rectify Taiwan's designation in the ISO 3166 country codes list.

The ministry said that this misleading situation not only causes misunderstanding about Taiwan but also undermines Taiwan's national status.

The Geneva-based ISO is an international standard-setting body composed of representatives from various national standards organizations.

It may seem weird to sue the ISO, but in reality it is deadly serious. As Anthony Van Dyck, AKA Maoman of Forumosa fame pointed out to me, ISO standards lie behind innumerable everyday products. When software programs want a valid list of who's what in the world for those universal drop-down menus, they go to the ISO. By hitting the ISO directly, Taiwan is saving an infinity of fights with individual organizations over their Taiwan standards, and making change where it can affect a large number of institutions and products.


Anonymous said...

Except it won't work, given the influence of Chinese companies at the ISO and the general political apathy that most international organizations have toward Taiwan.

China 1, Taiwan 0.

maoman said...

This suit is very good news, and excellent strategy on the part of Taiwan.

Tommy said...

Well, Anonymous, the suit is filed with a Geneva court. It is not filed with the ISO. Therefore the success of the Taiwan government's suit shouldn't be based on ISO's thoughts of what the country should be called. Rather, it should be based on the success of the Taiwan government of successfully convincing the Geneva court that they have suffered some kind of loss or damages. Organizations are not supposed to automatically change the names of their members without consulting the members.

An analogy: Your name is listed in a phone book. The phone company cannot add or subtract letters from your name, even though they think to do so would make the word fit better on the page. They need your approval to do so. Otherwise, they might be responsible if people who want to contact you, Arnold Shwartzenegger, are confused when they can only find Arnold Schwartz. It seems to me that ISO needs to come to a name agreement with the Taiwan government before they go about changing the name.

Of course, a lot of things that "should" happen in regards to Taiwan do not, so who knows how this will turn out.

TicoExpat said...

Real shameful on the ISO part. Unfortunately, they can argue that is common UN usage.

It took me half an hour to find the classification of Taiwan in the "Ease on Doing Business Ranking" by the FMI. It was under: Taiwan, province of China. Duh! Should I start looking for info on Taiwan as an appendage all the time? Rats.

Anonymous said...

I would love to see an ISO official trying to visit Taiwan with a Chinese visa.