Thursday, July 08, 2010

Uncle Sam Demurs as the EU Advances =UPDATED=

As in Taiwan the legislature brawled over the pact, there were some interesting (non)-developments on FTAs and ECFA. First, upon hearing that ECFA had been signed, the United States eagerly rushed to support democracy, enhance its own trade interests, expand its influence in East Asia, and drive peaceful economic growth in the region by offering Taiwan a US-Taiwan FTA.

Nope, I lied. Uncle Sam doesn't need trade or economic growth or East Asian influence because the US economy is booming right now and our foreign policy has made us the envy of the world, while China is in rapid decline.

Oh wait, that's not right either. I'll try again.

Ok, what actually happened is nothing. David Shear, US State Department Official, speaking at a seminar in Washington, announced that the US thought that Taiwan had the right to enter into FTAs.
"Under WTO rules, any WTO member is free to negotiate trade agreements with other members as long as WTO standards are met, and we believe Taiwan should be able to do that," he said at a seminar in Washington, D.C. on relations across the Taiwan Strait.
This was the first time that US officials had expressed that thought, precisely, but I doubt anyone was much worried, since Taiwan already has FTAs with several countries.
Shear said, however, that "the United States has no plans to begin talks with Taiwan about an FTA at this time."


Shear said the U.S. would reinforce bilateral trade and economic cooperation through the existing Taiwan-U.S. Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).
FTAs sure are nice when other people do them, but let's not and say we did, offers The Greatest Nation on Earth. The US official once again announced that ECFA was A Good Thing (he could hardly do otherwise) but left this little tidbit at the end:
As to whether any ministerial-level U.S. officials are likely to visit Taiwan, Shear said the U.S. does not have any such plan at the moment. The issue should be considered in a larger framework guiding U.S.-China relations, he said.
In other words, whether US cabinet-level officials visit Taiwan is contigent on whether it pisses Beijing off. Pssst...maybe that's why you should do it, guys! It would be great if the next official said that such visits were part of a larger framework guiding US-China-Taiwan relations.

About the only good thing in all this is that when I was off searching to see when exactly it was the TIFA talks stalled I got this hit first, which almost made up for the fact that it turns out that TIFA has been dead in the water since 2007 over the beef fracas. Plans are to restart at the end of 2010. So congratulations Taiwan, ECFA changes nothing between the US and Taiwan.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, an ECIPE paper argued that the time had come for an EU-Taiwan FTA under the WTO framework:
This paper discusses the economics and geopolitics of EU Taiwan commercial relations and weighs the case for a free trade agreement (FTA) between them. There is a widespread belief that China will oppose an EU-Taiwan FTA. The recent cross-Straits rapprochement, recently crowned by a trade agreement, could provide a window for Taiwan to sign trade deals with other partners. An FTA with Taiwan would boost some of Europe’s most competitive sectors in ICT, automotives, pharmaceutical products, and telecommunications, financial, business, transport and environmental services. Taiwan needs to position itself as a production platform for global markets. Taiwan is member of the World Trade Organisation - legal obstacles to an EU Taiwan FTA are minimal. But China needs to be reassured that the agreement does not involve recognition of Taiwan’s formal statehood.
Love that last sentence. Poor China, always in need of reassurance.

An EU-Taiwan FTA would be great, always provided that it didn't claim that Taiwan was part of China. Done under the WTO framework it need not do that. But this is all pie in the sky at this point.

Today's light humor is provided by this Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) poll on ECFA, which found, not surprisingly, that the good people of Taiwan are swooning over the pact. I'll let Taiwan Today carry the ball:
The poll found that nearly 61 percent support the ECFA negotiation results. A resounding 79.3 percent endorsed the government’s handling of cross-strait affairs via the institutionalized negotiations. Only 15.9 percent disapproved of the government’s conduct.
What a success! The polls have swiveled round overnight!

Stop the presses! KNN was kind enough to publish the whole poll. Many of the questions are loaded (and others notable chiefly for their absence), but number 3 is a keeper:
The former DPP government allowed 17 items of Mainland products, including towels, bedding products, clothes, and shoes, to enter the Taiwan market, to the detriment of these local industries. In the latest ECFA negotiation, the current KMT government neither decreased the tariffs on these 17 items nor allowed any additional items from Taiwan’s disadvantaged industries to be imported to Taiwan. Do you think the current government has protected Taiwan’s disadvantaged industries?
No leading the respondent there! This was conducted by the China Credit Information Service, which has old connections to...well, never mind, you can figure that one out from the name.

UPDATE: It took me a while to find it, but while MAC claims 79% support for the SEF-ARATS mechanism, this March Global Views poll found....7.4%. While 65% said that ECFA should be signed under the WTO framework.
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1 comment:

Readin said...

Reading Shear's remarks at
it looks to me like he said something new. He said "We insist that cross-Strait differences be resolved peacefully and according to the wishes of the people on both sides of the Strait." If my memory serves, the US has always in the past said that the differences have to be resolved according to the wishes of both sides, or even what (in infamous wording) "the Chinese" on both sides agree to. Is this the first time that the US has indicated it cares about what the Taiwanese people want rather than just what the government of Taiwan wants or what the Chinese in Taiwan want?

It's nice to be able to say something positive about the Obama administration for a change.

On the same day I also saw some news about the US sending some Ohio class submarines to the area and the news being "leaked" (sounds to me like the US let it be known on purpose). The claim was being made that the US is concerned about China's claims in the South China Sea.

Way to go Obama!