Error? Theatre? You make the call. Last week there was an enormously embarrassing moment for the Ma Administration/KMT's push for the free trade agreement with China when a PRC spokesman offhandedly appeared to rule out Taiwan getting free trade agreements (FTAs) with other nations after the sellout deal is inked. The Ma Administration responded by becoming upset that China had forbidden FTAs....via Taiwan Today last week:
China later pooh-poohed the whole thing, saying that officials in Taipei had made a mountain out of a molehill and were reading too much into an offhand statement buried in a long presser focused on many issues. Despite the unimportance of the comments (according to Beijing) they still found it necessary to edit the transcript to make it appear the spokesman had not been so categorical.
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.
Note, though, that if the intent of the Ma Administration's strong reaction was to get China to forthrightly state FTAs after ECFA would be permitted, it was a decided failure. As one commenter on my blog niftily put it:
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...Yup, China completely failed to make a positive statement on FTAs. This has led to another propaganda blitz from President Ma et al, with Administration officials repeatedly asserting that the WTO allows Taiwan to have FTAs with other countries. But President Ma has also been out there, a veritable propaganda Rommel, leading from the front (CNA):
Yeah. That's what I thought.
President Ma Ying-jeou said Thursday that Beijing should not disrupt Taiwan's efforts to forge free trade agreements (FTAs) with other countries, stressing that Taiwan must take this path because its economy is its lifeline.As one observer pointed out, note the subtle shift. Ma used to say that Beijing would of course permit FTAs once ECFA was signed. But now Ma is saying that Beijing should not disrupt -- in an interview with BBC the other day Ma said it should not stand in the way -- of FTAs. AP reported in an excellent piece (be sure to read all) on the public's guarded rejection of ECFA that Ma also said the same thing at a KMT party shindig:
Ma made the statement, the third of its kind in two days, in a meeting at the Presidential Office with a group of representatives of Taiwan business associations in China.
"It is a right of the members of the World Trade Organization to pursue free trade agreements with each other, so Taiwan should not face any interference when exercising such a right," Ma told a ruling Nationalist Party meeting Wednesday. "I have also urged China not to prevent Taiwan from signing free trade agreements with our major trade partners."Ma has moved from hectoring Taiwanese to hectoring Beijing. Why? This dust-up has coincided with a number of reports that the ECFA signing, which Ma had been pushing to be done this month, may be delayed. One wonders if the negotiations are not going well, and the Administration was seeking an excuse to explain the delays. And lo and behold, some PRC spokesman opened his mouth.....
- Heritage on strengthening the US hand in China negotiations. Great recommendations.
- The Taipei Times had a long and extremely important piece on Peter Kwok and the Chinatrust sale that fleshes out what I noted last month. Go thou and read!
- Sucking up to Beijing? China Airlines now refers to the Taiwan area.
- MUST READ: Echo Taiwan on the Ma Adminstration plan to put "military instructors" (read political commissars) in middle and elementary schools (Lib Times in Chinese). A huge step back to the bad old days when the military instructors were there to enforce thought control.
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