The Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (Ceca), as the pact is officially known, was part of Mr Ma's campaign platform. It was originally believed that it would not be signed till Mr Ma's second term, should he win re-election in 2012. The Taiwanese, however, have decided to bring forward negotiation for the pact - to address the current economic downturn as well as the possible economic marginalisation of Taiwan as a result of the free trade agreement (FTA) between China and Asean.The frame is the old I'm-OK-you're-ideological nonsense, but it is being pushed across the pro-China media sphere.
There has been little attempt on the part of the government to explain to the public what the pact is about or assuage their fears that it would make Taiwan over-reliant on China. This has allowed the pro-independence camp to attack the pact as an infringement of Taiwan's sovereignty, particularly if it is signed on the basis of the 'one China' principle, as Chinese President Hu Jintao suggested last year.
One economist likened Ceca to a 'morphine drip' that would temporarily relieve Taiwan's financial woes without curing the ailment. Another economist suggested that Taiwan's haste to sign a pact would put it in a weak position and China could stop its attempts to sign FTAs with other countries. One senior DPP legislator went so far as to suggest that Taiwan join Asean so as to protect its economic autonomy and political sovereignty.
Such utterances suggest either a lack of vision or a clouding of vision by ideology
There are two problems. First, it disingenuous, verging on unethical, to write as if the KMT had no ideology of its own or as if the CECA decision is not driven by the KMT's pro-annexation ideology. Second, the truth is that sovereignty is only one aspect of the pan-Green criticisms. The pan-Green critique is also driven by pragmatic pro-Taiwan economic considerations. In her commentary in the China Times the other day, DPP Chairman Tsai Ing-wen hit hard on the economic effects of an FTA with China:
-- Taiwan's economic growth has been poor due to over-reliance on China
-- in January Taiwan's exports dropped 44.1%, while Taiwan's exports to China decreased 58.6%, yet's China's exports only dropped 17.5%.
--The drop off included components and parts that Taiwanese firms once made but are now increasingly being made in China.
--CECA will make it much easier for Taiwanese firms to move production to China
-- the products made in China will eat into markets for locally made products
--Chinese workers will arrive in Taiwan
--because CECA is signed under One China condition, Taiwan cannot impose equalization duties or anti-dumping duties on China. Taiwan will thus function as little more than a dumping ground for low-price goods.
--the agricultural sector and SMEs will suffer the worst from such an outcome.
Of course, such DPP economic critiques will never make it into the Straits Times.
Tsai also observed that the Ma Administration had not released any details of CECA, instead simply announcing that it was a done deal and would be signed when the CCP sent their mouthpiece to collect the tribute from the KMT. Public opinion was never consulted or considered.
If it isn't plain that the KMT regards Taiwan as little more than a bargaining chip in its quest to carve out a position in China, it should be....