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China Welcomes its First Judge in WTO

From News, page 6, issue no. 344, December 3rd, 2007
Translated by Zuo Maohong
Original article:

During what little leisure time she has at home, Zhang Yuejiao enjoys cooking; whenever she is out on a hectic business trip, she brings along a piece of swimwear; when it comes to music, she favors the richly expressive symphonies of Peter Ilyich Tcaikovsky.

A woman full of zest, 63-year-old Zhang's motto in life is to give her best in doing whatever she finds worthy, be it personal fancies or her long and illustrious legal career.

And on November 27th, she became the first Chinese national admitted into the World Trade Organization's appellate body.

A New Beginning

On that afternoon, Zhang was formally appointed by the WTO Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) as a member of the seven-person Appellate Body, thus becoming the first Chinese judge in the WTO's top court.

She took the news calmly. "I'll serve the DSB by using all of my knowledge, experience, and ability. I've worked in many international institutions, and I like to work with experts from different cultures; they have greatly inspired me," Zhang says gently.

One and a half years ago, she lost the race for the same post, but her vast knowledge and candid conversations had left a deep impression on the DSB selection committee. Amazed by the various quotes and facts she presented, one member had jokingly asked, "What do you not know?"
Having once already worked as a legal counsel for China during its WTO accession talks, the international body is no stranger to Zhang.

"Zhang has worked for many international institutions for a long time; both her level of professionalism and foreign language skills are impressive. She's respected as an attorney all over the world," says Dr. Wu Changhai at the Center for Law and Economics of China University of Politics and Law.

In the past few years, Zhang has worked as legal counsel for the World Bank as well as assistant legal counsel for Asian Development Bank and chairman of its appellate committee.

Zhang says she has devoted decades to studying international law. "This is my interest. I'm looking forward to working for the appellate body and I'm confident that I can do it well."

From the profile descriptions of DSB members, Zhang realized that there would be a vacancy for a position at the end of this year and next summer. Undetered by not making it the first time, she decided to reapply.

Indeed, her failure to secure her place in the WTO appellate body only energized her. "I got up at five every morning, went through all the reports, transcripts, and cases that were related to WTO, and learnt the cases being dealt with by the appellate body on the net. It was a tougher job even compared to preparing a dissertation," Zhang recalls. The past 19 months was spent in the very same way, with piles of documents and books on her desk.

The second chance finally came last month, when she took a candidacy selection examination.

Zhang made outstanding statements in response to issues that WTO members are most concerned about, such as environmental conservation, anti-dumping, and reform of the appellate body. This time round, she won unanimous approval from the selection committee and was finally appointed as one of the four new members of the appellate body. The other three judges are Lilia R. Bautista of the Philippines, Jennifer Hillman of the United States, and Japan's Shotaro Oshima.

Following the appointment, WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell has told the EO in an email reply, "The (selection committee) members said they were confident all four of the new panelists would be impartial and independent and they were all very qualified in terms of their expertise, experience, and abilities. All members said the process had been run in a fair, transparent, and inclusive manner." He adds that the selection was based on personal competence, and had nothing to do with the candidates' nationalities.

Devoted to Law

Back in the 1990s, Zhang acted as assistant to Vice Premier Wu Yi in the negotiations with the United States on matters related to intellectual property, during which she took relentless notes and recorded more than one million words. All her co-workers thought "she was so energetic." When asked about this, Zhang replies with a gentle smile, "It's a distant memory. I had worked for the negotiation, but on how I had performed is for others' to judge."

As Fu Chen, a lawyer who has worked with Zhang on many occasions, says, "She's got a pure heart, and fame has never been appealing to her."

A professor in the Law School of Shantou University, Zhang impressed her assistant Fan Xinjian as being responsible and considerate. "Last summer, she lectured in our school for seven periods every day. Every time she came into the classroom, she held a pile of material in her arms. She wouldn't let us walk her back home. If we insisted, she'd walk fast so that we could get back to school and have our dinner in the cafeteria on time."

Zhang is also known for her prudence, which stems from long years of working as a lawyer. "I won't comment on things that I don't understand," she says.

As Zhang once said, "women should be strong but not arrogant, ambitious but not willful, have their own careers and at the same time, cook at home." And that's actually what she's been doing. "My family has been supportive and encouraged me a lot." she says.

In 1968, the first job she held after studying abroad in France was to come home and work on a farm. She did the job willingly, adding that the experience "has enriched my life... it was representative of that era".


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