Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Ma: We need ECFA for Other FTAs Beijing: What are you talking about? =UPDATEDX4=

A bike trail. Sometimes there are even bikes on the trail.

NOTE: I'll be updating this throughout the day. Absolutely priceless tale.

Over the last year we've heard nothing but how much Taiwan needs ECFA. The initial rationale of ECFA was that we had to have it, to save the economy. This shock doctrine rationale was quickly undermined by the fact that ECFA effects couldn't possibly arrive in time to do anything for the crisis, and by the fact that the economy turned around at the end of last year.

The other justi-fiction was to prevent Taiwan from being "isolated like North Korea," as our President averred. No more was "saving the economy" heard, instead, the government broadcast the view that ECFA was needed to give Taiwan access since the ASEAN FTAs were cutting tariffs and Taiwan might be left out.

Today Ma's pals in Beijing completely undercut the KMT's arguments on ECFA by announcing that Taiwan would not be permitted to have FTAs. Reuters reports:
Taiwan stocks fell 1.28 percent on Wednesday, weighed down by weak overseas markets and China's opposition to foreign countries signing free trade pacts with Taiwan.

......

On the China trade issue, Taiwan protested on Wednesday after a mainland foreign ministry spokesman said Beijing "resolutely opposed" official contact between its diplomatic allies and Taiwan.

"That raises uncertainty Taiwan and China will ink the ECFA in June, which has been widely expected," said Andrew Deng, an assistant vice president at Taiwan International Securities.

Taiwan has said it plans to sign the economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with Beijing in June, in a move that could help cut tariffs for many local manufacturers that operate in China.
What happened? Instant replay:
  • *China says it "resolutely opposes" official contact between diplomatic allies and Taiwan
  • *Taiwan government protests that this means no FTAs
  • *Stocks fall in Taiwan
After all that ardent service to Beijing the KMT has been rendering lately, this is the thanks they get: sorry folks, your main rationale for having ECFA is toast. Congratulations, you've been Kitty Hawked!

Perhaps you think Beijing will wake up and realize what it said and do some hasty backtracking. Perhaps you think someone has misunderstood. See the China TimesMAC via Taiwan Today:

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council strongly opposes the efforts of Beijing in obstructing the country from signing free trade agreements with other economies.

“World Trade Organization members have the right to enter into FTAs as they see fit,” a MAC official said June 1. “Taiwan is a WTO member and must be allowed to exercise this right.”

The MAC official was responding to Ma Zhaoxu, mainland China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman, who said Beijing stands against Taiwan concluding FTAs with other countries.

Ma said even after signing the cross-strait economic cooperation framework agreement, Beijing would not shift its position on this matter.

So Beijing made it clear that even after signing ECFA, Taiwan would not be permitted to have FTAs. Kyodo News reported:
Taiwan's government and most media outlets are treating the comment by Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ma Zhaoxu as a rejection of Taipei's agenda, which is to commence FTA negotiations with countries such as Japan once the deal is complete.
Maybe they will issue a clarification. It seems incredible that they could be so stupid as to undercut the Ma Administration like this.

In the meantime, I'm laughing so hard my sides hurt.

UPDATE: China's English transcript:

Q: The Mainland and Taiwan are expected to sign the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) shortly, which Taiwan hopes will facilitate its free trade agreements with other countries. What is the Mainland's attitude?

A: We do not object to non-governmental economic and trade exchanges between Taiwan and countries having diplomatic relations with China, but we firmly oppose any forms of official contact with Taiwan.

A smart observer observed that this is buried in a long discussion of foreign affairs. I think there will be a tidal wave of clarifications at some point. Why the fuss from the Ma gov't. Do they want the PRC to "clarify" by saying Taiwan can have FTAs? What if that clarification isn't forthcoming?

UPDATE 2: China's Taiwan officials have responded by saying "you're all reading too much into this." Yes, they did. So now let's see how the Ma government backtracks.

UPDATE 3: Bonnie Glaser of the CSIS says China will let Taiwan have FTAs with preconditions. She adds:
"As long as Taiwan does not seek to use the signing of economic agreements with other countries for political purposes, as was done in the past when Chen Shui-bian was president, this (signing of FTAs) is a goal that is achievable under President Ma Ying-jeou's leadership," she said.
ROFL. When you agree with China's politics, you're not doing politics; when you don't agree with China's position, you're doing politics. Eastasia, btw, has always been at war with Oceania.

UPDATE 4: Lawrence Chung had another piece on this in SCMP today and observed:
"Analysts said Ma Zhaoxu's comment could have been an accident, as the Foreign Ministry later revised the wording of Ma Zhaoxu's comment on its website to 'official contacts' instead of 'official accords'".
Oopsie! LOL. See Thomas' comment in the comments below for more.
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22 comments:

Hans said...

A loud slap on the face for Ma, for sure.
I am just surprised but how "frank" the Chinese Officials were...didn't they understand the trick that Ma was pulling here in Taiwan?

It's all ruined now!

KMT will just have to come up with another "rationale"...

Anonymous said...

Is this making the news cycle?

Michael Turton said...

Yes, but there's some funky stuff. everyone is aware of it.

D said...

Your "Kitty Hawk" is a good analysis of PRC behavior, but I would soften it in one respect, by pointing out that some of this is the result of factional and/or institutional friction within the Chinese government. Some of these contradictions may be orchestrated, or tolerated as a way of projecting power, but some of them may be spontaneous. I don't think the foreign ministry carries much weight, by the way. (But were actual FTAs really a possibility anyway? I always felt like that was something Ma floated as a freebie, easily scaled back to "well, any kind of trade agreement, whether it's called FTA or not". In fact, I bet that's what he says tomorrow.)

And oh, please do let me know when you find the "Really Big Stick" (the one you mention in your "Kitty Hawk" post) to negotiate with China with. I've been looking for that for a while. Barack will want to know about it too. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm delighted China said this before the YECK-FA was signed. At least we can be reassured that China wasn't colluding with its old enemies.

But now I think there's going to be blood in the pen that signs that document. What other choice does Taiwan have since it has essentially put all of its eggs in one basket?

Anonymous said...

And these are the guys who keep saying, "trust us, we know what we're doing."

Anonymous said...

Good to know. If the CCP really believed that the KMT were handing Taiwan to them (as is so often claimed by this blog and other maddogs), then they wouldn't have done this. The only rationale can be that the KMT are not selling out Taiwan so China's pissed at them.

Richard said...

Funny. Tsai Ing-wen gets blasted for correctly stating that the R.O.C. was a government in exile in Taiwan and thus supposedly undermined Taiwan's government and sovereignty/international status.

But, the PRC blocking FTA's from being negotiated and signed between Taiwan and other countries doesn't undermine Taiwan's government/sovereignty/international status?

We need a serious reality check. One is a simple problem of words, while the other is a significant problem of action (or inability to act [on a FTA]).

Michael Turton said...

Hahaha. Thanks D. But that big stick, it's your job to find it! I'll let you know if I come up with anything besides our market....

Michael Turton said...

The only rationale can be that the KMT are not selling out Taiwan so China's pissed at them.

Or not selling it out fast enough.
Or institutional struggles within China.
Or KMT misinterpretation.
Or....

Really, you pro-PRC trolls simply lack imagination.

Tom Carroll said...

The Harrison Ford thing is such a non-story. This is a Hollywood film for god's sake. When you watch a "based on a true story" movie and they actually show the real people do you really expect to have them looking like Hollywood actors?

And as expected Mayor Hu doing his Claude Raines impersonation: I was shocked, shocked.

Anonymous said...

I find it intriguing that whenever a mainland China official states anything, it's immediately believed to be truth and taken as gospel, but when a Taiwanese official says something, it's automatically a lie or empty promise.

I'm not sure why the DPP hacks believe everything that China says.

Thomas said...

By the way, Lawrence Chung wrote another long article today, this time about the ECFA issue. The headline is "Official deals with Taipei blocked".

It says nothing more than you already know, but it does have one interesting detail at the end.

The second to last paragraph says:

"Analysts said Ma Zhaoxu's comment could have been an accident, as the Foreign Ministry later revised the wording of Ma Zhaoxu's comment on its website to 'official contacts' instead of 'official accords'".

My own take on this is that Ma Zhaoxu spoke correctly, but he revealed too much. Beijing really has no intention of letting Taipei sign FTAs with other countries, but in order to get the ECFA signed, it is willing to be ambigous regarding this matter. Therefore, the Chinese have never corrected Ma Ying-jeou before.

Ma Zhaoxu's problem is that he said what the Chinese are thinking rather than what they would have preferred him to say.

"Official contacts" can be interpreted as diplomatic relations, but the term can also be interpreted to mean any official dealings (such as negotiating and signing an FTA). Naturally, such ambiguity would be the ideal way of responding to the question of a nosy reporter.

"Official accords" is less ambiguous. As all FTAs are official accords, Ma Zhaoxu committed the sin of revealing the Foreign Ministry's real position.

But unless the Foreign Ministry specifically releases a statement saying that they really meant to say "official contacts" as opposed to "official accords", thereby implying that "official accords" are acceptable to Beijing, when they are not, I would say that Ma Zhaoxu's doozie of a comment will be very difficult for Beijing to undo, making the verbal acrobatics of Ma Ying-jeou, who has to prove to us that night is day and black is white, all the more entertaining.

Marc said...

...The Harrison Ford thing is such a non-story...

Actually this is a big deal in the entertainment business. Entertainment activists have long battled Hollywood and Broadway to cast more non-white actors in leading roles normally given to whites, and to create more principal non-white characters in major Hollywood films. The black barrier has only recently been breached. Leading Asian characters are still uncommon.

We can argue that Ford saw "an opportunity" in his property, but Hollywood has often portrayed famous white scientists authentically in the past. It's a bit disturbing that an Asian actor was not even considered for this role.

Michael Turton said...

I find it intriguing that whenever a mainland China official states anything, it's immediately believed to be truth and taken as gospel, but when a Taiwanese official says something, it's automatically a lie or empty promise.

I know you PRC trolls are English-challenged, but it doesn't even take the low wattage necessary to power a PRC troll brain to understand that it was not us on the pro-Taiwan side, but the Ma government, which read the statement as denying the right for Taiwan to have FTAs. The interesting question here is why they took it that way.

I find it intriguing that trolls point out, on those occasions when PRC diplomatic speech is taken as a true statement of PRC intentions, that this occasional judgment becomes "always." Really, even a PRC troll can chop logic better than that.

Michael

Anonymous said...

Funny, Wikipedia seems to think Harrison Ford's character is modeled after another guy, William Canfield:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Canfield

Michael Turton said...

You're right. Ok, so is Canfield or the Taiwanese guy the real hero?

Michael Turton said...

It doesn't look like there is a contradiction so much as an omission. The original story seems never to have mentioned that Genzyme bought the cure from Taiwan, but treats it as something developed at Novazyme. There is a lot of missing information here.

Michael Turton said...

Bloom is right, according to Genzyme's own website.

http://www.genzyme.com/pompemovie/

Novazyme from Ok city was discarded as as ineffective. It was the Duke research by the Taiwanese doc that was the answer. The Cure and Extraordinary Measures are total bullshit, at least by that data.

Jade said...

"I find it intriguing that whenever a mainland China official states anything, it's immediately believed to be truth and taken as gospel, but when a Taiwanese official says something, it's automatically a lie or empty promise."

I never believe what China says, that is, if it is read out of a statement on a printed paper. The only thing I take it a little seriously is when they say it in a spontaneous way as seeems to be the case here. As Thomas pointed Ma Zhaoxu's problem is that he said what the Chinese are thinking rather than what they would have preferred him to say. When you have respond to a question without much preparation, it is more prone to say what you have been thinking.

Anonymous said...

Oh c'mon everyone! Does anyone really think China would allow TWN to have FTAs? I don't need to hear it from the lips of some commie mouthpiece. They are consistent in their view that they are going to devour Taiwan.

les said...

Exactly. If Beijing was really going to allow Taiwan to sign FTAs with other sovereign nations then now would be a great time to make a clear and unambiguous statement eh? Clear up the misunderstanding...

*crickets*

Yeah. That's what I thought.