What’s the DPP’s Alternative to ECFA?
What’s the DPP’s Alternative to ECFA?
Source: United Daily News
April 21, 2010
Amb. Stephen S. F. Chen & Chih-Yung Ho
Signing an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with Mainland China is a very important policy goal of the Ma Ying-jeou administration. The opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), however, has strongly opposed the government efforts to conclude an ECFA, calling the ECFA “an asymmetric treaty” which would humiliate the nation and sacrifice its sovereignty. The DPP also asserted that concluding the ECFA would negatively impact Taiwan’s traditional industries and agricultural industry, and thereby dramatically increase the unemployment rate in Taiwan.
To be honest, signing an ECFA with the Mainland has both advantages and disadvantages. Looking with open eyes at the global economic and trade trends and the current cross-Strait economic and trade ties, a cross-Strait ECFA is obviously beneficial for Taiwan if we weigh the advantages and disadvantages. Can the DPP clearly tell us what its alternative is if we choose not to sign the ECFA?
As a matter of fact, the DPP fundamentally considers the ECFA as an issue of national identity. If not so, how come the DPP calls signing the ECFA an attempt by the “pro-reunification Ma administration” to “incline toward China and sell out Taiwan?” Therefore, as long as the DPP does not change its policy of seeking “Taiwan independence and the establishment of a state,” every government effort to legalize and institutionalize cross-Strait economic and trade exchanges is doomed to be opposed. But can the people of Taiwan bear the costs of such a fate?
The DPP contends that it would support the government to sign an ECFA with the Mainland only if Taiwan can simultaneously sign FTAs with other countries. If that was feasible, why didn’t the DPP government sign any FTAs with other major economies over its eight-year rule?
The DPP claims that Taiwan should negotiate with the Mainland to lower tariff rates one industry at a time instead of under a framework agreement. However, as both Taiwan and the Mainland are WTO members, according to WTO regulations, all its members should agree to accord most-favored-nation status to one another. Let us suppose, for example, that the Mainland grants tariff reductions on a non-reciprocal basis for the import of Taiwan’s agricultural produce. If other WTO members request to follow Taiwan’s path, is it possible for the Mainland to say yes?
Under the WTO framework, only by signing FTAs or other agreements in accordance with the spirit of regional free trade, can those WTO members involved avoid the aforementioned problem. In this sense, it is quite reasonable for the two sides across the Strait to conclude an ECFA.
And now, the “ASEAN+1 (Mainland China)” has impacted Taiwan’s exports, with the fact that Taiwan’s export orders to the ten ASEAN countries doubled between 2001 and 2009, but lagging behind Singapore’s 1.5-fold growth and the Mainland’s 4.7. After the “ASEAN+3 (South Korea and Japan added)” is completed in the future, a huger impact on Taiwan will be certainly foreseeable. How can the DPP guarantee that Taiwan will never suffer from being marginalized without an ECFA?
A former DPP government official postulates that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) government will face legitimacy crises or even collapse in twenty to thirty years. So he suggested that we had better “wait and see,” rather than adopting a “comprehensive and integrated policy,” like an ECFA. Frankly, that is “waiting until it changes itself.” However, even if the CCP government were to collapse as predicted, we still want to ask the DPP what Taiwan could do for survival in the next twenty to thirty years?
Any bilateral agreement in the world has both advantages and disadvantages the same as an ECFA between Taiwan and the Mainland. Instead of opposing a cross-Strait ECFA for the sake of ideology, the DPP should face the reality and work out feasible plans of resolution in terms of Taiwan’s existing difficulties to supplement ECFA’s insufficiency.
Amb. Stephen S. F. Chen was ROC representative to the US and is currently Convener of the National Security Division, National Policy Foundation. Chih-Yung Ho is Assistant Research Fellow of the National Security Division, National Policy Foundation.