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.What happened? Instant replay:
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.
- *China says it "resolutely opposes" official contact between diplomatic allies and Taiwan
- *Taiwan government protests that this means no FTAs
- *Stocks fall in Taiwan
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
So Beijing made it clear that even after signing ECFA, Taiwan would not be permitted to have FTAs. Kyodo News reported:
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.
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:
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?
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.
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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