Saturday, May 22, 2010

Please Washington, an FTA for Taiwan

As the Taipei Times reported today, a major event in Washington DC Thursday brought together 16 Taiwanese-American organizations to argue that ECFA is a bad idea. To wit:
A large group of Taiwanese-Americans have launched a three-pronged attack on an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) between Taiwan and China, claiming that it is no more than “a fast track toward annexation of Taiwan by China.”

They have sent a joint statement to US President Barack Obama calling on him to urge Taiwan’s government to conduct a public and democratic referendum on an ECFA; they have organized a Washington conference for prominent academics to condemn an ECFA; and they have released a letter from 28 major US supporters of Taiwan to Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) asking him to make a critical review of the proposed agreement.

The joint statement to Obama, backed by 16 of the largest and most influential Taiwanese-American organizations, also asks the president to negotiate a free-trade agreement with Taiwan.

It says that because China may use an ECFA to take over Taiwan, the agreement would ultimately have a negative impact on the US strategic position in East Asia.
All the right points were hit, including the need for a US-Taiwan FTA. But such an FTA offer might be deeply offensive to China's leaders, and the US has shown great reluctance to offend them on a wide range of issues -- note the complete lack of public complaints about China's aid to Iran's nuke program, for example.

In the blizzard of press conferences recently President Ma Ying-jeou made a few comments about trade agreements with the US:
Taipei, May 20 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou reiterated Taiwan's intention to tighten ties with the United States under an established trade framework and continue to buy arms from Washington, at a press conference Wednesday to mark the second anniversary of his inauguration.

Ma told local and international media that Taiwan has opted to further develop trade and commercial ties with the U.S. under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) , rather than pursue amore comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA).

He said both sides are trying to use a "block-building" format that would rely on a series of specific deals under the TIFA framework, such as a bilateral investment agreement and an agreement on avoidance of double taxation, to enhance cooperation.

Ma was responding to a question on how he viewed the statement by American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Raymond Burghardt that "Taiwan might not be ready for an FTA with the U.S." because it still wants to protect some local sectors.

Ma said Taiwan and the U.S. will not discuss an FTA because the Trade Promotion Authority, authorized by the U.S. Congress, has expired, adding that an enhanced TIFA will still be an effective tool for bilateral trade liberalization.
The existing TIFA framework has a long pedigree, and at present, Congress hasn't granted the authority to engage in FTA negotiations. Note the normal modus operandi for Ma: soothing comments wouldn't it be great to have an FTA with the US but -- oh, too bad we can't and then the instant return to the status quo: well, we still have this TIFA thing. We can just operate under that, like we always have. Ma again referred to the F-16s -- it's been how many years since he was initially Chairman of the KMT and promised to get that done? Yet here we are years later and the F-16s are like the Zeno's Paradox of Weapons Deliveries, always on their way, but never quite arriving.

ECFA is going to come into existence. Opposition to it is important because it forces the Ma Administration to make at least cosmetic concessions to the needs of the island, like its belated commitment to a crackdown on smuggling from China (whoopee, a whole 15 minute crackdown), but the opposition, at least in the US, needs to move into a new phase of pushing Congress to grant Trade Promotion Authority and then moving for the US to negotiate an FTA with Taiwan. This may not actually result in anything happening -- I suspect the same mysterious sluggishness we've seen with the F-16 sale will also occur with the US-Taiwan FTA which similarly will gather "strong support" and "positive reviews from experts" etc etc etc but will somehow never happen. But is important to keep pushing so as to make room for other FTAs and to keep the pressure on the CCP and the KMT. And who knows, perhaps the horse will learn to sing....
Daily Links:
  • How will an ECFA affect Taiwan? Check out this piece from January on Indonesia's request to renegotiate its FTA with China due to the destruction of many of its industries.
  • Taiwan News with a fabulous editorial on the Racialism of Ma's policies and ECFA:
    About the only promise made by Ma on his handling of cross-strait relations that we may take seriously is his promise that there will be no "unification" talks as such a formal exercise will be unnecessary.

    All that is needed is for the KMT regime to accept in substance the suzerainty of the CCP and for the Beijing regime to reciprocate by mercifully allowing a vassal KMT regime to continue to use the "Republic of China" name within Taiwan only, just as Beijing did with the traditional Tibetan government in the early 1950s.

  • For amusement purposes only: this incredibly wrong piece in the Edmonton Journal on how pragmatic Taiwan is compared to Canada in its China relations.
  • China's war plans against India: the Peaceful Riser© takes Arunachal Pradesh in 48 hours.
  • Taiwan What's Up latest issue out.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


Thoth Harris said...

Not surprising that the piece is in the Edmonton journal. Edmonton is a lake of lefties in a see of red-blooded conservatives (Alberta has almost always been ultra-conservative, and supported the Reform Party before it became the Alliance Party, followed by its eventual metamorphosis into the Conservative Party of Canada). That piece is ssssooo liberal, it would make a Montrealer or a Portlander blush.
And, as you say, so wrong. I say it, too. Totally wrong.

Okami said...

An FTA for Taiwan? Correct me if I'm wrong, but the Democrats who control the presidency and legislature demagogued the Colombian FTA and still have the Panama FTA and the South Korean FTA that they haven't/won't touched due to union pressure.

Michael Turton said...

The South Korean FTA has not been approved by either Congress or the People's Assembly in S Korea. That might be a possible route to a Taiwan FTA, whose symbolic importance I feel is high.

Anonymous said...


What the hell does "might be deeply offensive to China" mean?

Does China have "feelings"?

This doesn't make any sense. It may make it harder for Taiwan to be annexed by China if Taiwan signs an FTA with the US, but China is not offended. It only tells the US it's offended because the US thinks China is some unreasonable, emotion-driven child, and China takes full advantage of that--I'm China and I'M OFFENDED so no explanation needed, no give and take needed, no connection with material benefits or reality needed... after all I'm EXOTIC and ANCIENT and why would you understand me?

Geez Michael, from your blog? Seriously?

Michael Turton said...

Haha good point sorry. I'll edit.

Maoman said...

The Edmonton Journal piece is so poorly written, it's no wonder that the writer gets everything wrong.

Harry Sterling needs to take a course in remedial writing. He should also read more.