Taiwan Church News | March 9-15, 2009
Social organizations oppose signing economic agreement with China
Reported by Lin Yi-ying
Written by Lydia Ma
In the past few months, the Ma administration has not stopped pushing for an economic agreement with China under different names, such as Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA), Closer Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), and Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA). The Ma administration claims that such an economic agreement is completely unrelated to politics and will also save the ailing Taiwanese economy.
However, according to Taiwan Think Tank CEO Chen Po-chih, all of these economic agreements share one common goal: reunification with China. Chen pointed out that ECFA (the latest economic agreement proposed by the Ma administration) will do more harm than good for Taiwan. Not only will the country lose its national autonomy, it will also be defenseless against low-priced imports, tainted goods, and corrupt merchants.
Chen worries that signing such an agreement will also lure Taiwan into a well-orchestrated trap set by China that uses business opportunities as baits to quicken reunification and economic incentives for political gain. He pointed out that some newspapers in the United States have already analyzed why economic agreements will quicken reunification between Taiwan and China.
Because the Ma administration’s China-leaning policies have increasingly compromised Taiwanese political autonomy and economic well-being, when Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen visited Presbyterian Church in Taiwan headquarters office last year, she urged General Secretary Andrew Chang to rally together social organizations and political parties by studying current issues and coming up with agreements.
Headed by Associate General Secretary Lyim Hong-tiong, the PCT held the first session of “Taiwan Action Council” forum in October 2008 with the goal of opening up dialogue and creating solidarity to protect the country.
The third session of the forum was held on March 6th and participants included members from the DPP, Taiwan Nation Alliance, Taiwan Association of University Professors, and more. Forum organizers asked Taiwan Think Tank CEO Chen Po-chih to speak on the impact of signing ECFA and how Taiwanese people should respond to this policy.
Disadvantages overshadow benefits for ECFA
According to experts, farmers, medium-sized and small businesses will lose out while capitalists will reap the most benefits if ECFA is signed. “The Ma administration claims that signing ECFA is the only way to save Taiwanese economy and decrease unemployment rate. This is totally false and a lie to the Taiwanese because signing ECFA will actually harm the national economy and lead to massive unemployment among laborers”, said Taiwan Think Tank CEO Chen Po-chih.
Chen added that all trade liberalization agreements must be reciprocal. Otherwise, when low-priced Chinese produce or products are sold in Taiwan due to lack of anti-dumping regulation, Taiwanese farmers will be the first to suffer. Following that, domestic sales will plummet and more Taiwanese companies will be forced to close down. These problems will cause another wave of massive unemployment, worsening the already ailing Taiwanese economy.
In view of these negative consequences for laborers, farmers, and small businesses, many wonder why business entrepreneurs have joined the administration in supporting ECFA and have even claimed that without such an agreement they will all lose their businesses. Chen explains that many business entrepreneurs have big investments in China and trade liberalization will facilitate moving more of their capital to China. However, policies similar to ECFA will only aggravate economic woes for Taiwan.
Since ECFA will harm farmers, laborers, medium-sized and small businesses, why is the Ma administration promoting it and giving out false information? Chen replied that the Ma administration has been plagued with misguided economic policies since it took office. He also lamented that local media outlets in Taiwan almost never report news critical of the government. As a result, many people are misinformed about the dangers of signing onto ECFA and it is imperative to get the word out to the public immediately.
Signing ECFA at all cost is a prelude to reunification
According to experts at the meeting, the purpose of ECFA is for Taiwan and China to give each other benefits that go beyond WTO. Though Taiwan may reap a few benefits at the beginning, signing this agreement means it will also be powerless to protect itself from the fallouts that will come in due time. Furthermore, long-term over-reliance on China in the economic sphere will render Taiwan powerless against China’s reunification agenda.
Chen pointed out bluntly that all economic treaties have political ramifications that will affect Taiwan’s political and economic independence and to claim otherwise, as the Ma administration has done, is to deceive oneself and the public. Furthermore, more than half of Taiwan’s exports consist of electronics, which under WTO’s Information Technology Agreement regulations are already exempt from tariffs.
Other means to safeguard free trade for Taiwan
“Since the Ma administration claimed that signing ECFA with China would ensure that Taiwan can sign a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), then, we should focus on asking China to stop preventing Taiwan from entering into FTA agreements instead. We should not be restricting ourselves by signing ECFA because it will later prevent us from trading with other countries as we wish,” said Chen.
Chen suggested the Ma administration to focus instead on convincing China to let Taiwan become a member of “ASEAN Plus Three”, an organization including ASEAN countries as well as China, Japan, and South Korea. Taiwan should seek FTA with other countries at the same time. After these two goals are reached, the country would be in a better position to discuss ECFA if needed.
According to DPP delegate Chuang Shuo-han, the current situation in Taiwan is dire because the Ma administration is keen on drawing Taiwan closer to China. However, the DPP will continue to push for accountability by insisting that treaties such as ECFA go through the usual political process, which may include legislative scrutiny, committee reports, referendum, etc.
Chuang also noted that even the head of Taiwan’s legislature, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pying, has insisted on the importance of setting up regulations to monitor treaties the Ma administration may sign. He said Wang’s concern is a sign of the complexities and dangers of signing ECFA and doing it without a mandate from the public.
According to reports, social and political organizations in Taiwan are planning to organize mass rallies in May on issues such as ECFA and unemployment. Rallies will likely be scheduled on Labor Day (May 1st) and on the first anniversary of the Ma administration (May 20th).