President Ma Should Still Attempt to Attend APEC
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
October 21, 2008
Summary: This year's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting will be held in late November, in Lima, Peru. Several candidates are rumored to be President Ma Ying-jeou's choice of representative to the unofficial meeting of national leaders. But before he picks someone to represent him, President Ma should attempt to attend in person. Beijing has long hoped that Chen Yunlin, President of the Association for Relations Across the Straits, could come to Taiwan. Therefore it is makes sense for the leaders of the two sides to meet during the unofficial APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting. Such a meeting would contribute to cross-strait interactions, and deserves the Mainland authorities' careful consideration. The most important prerequisite to the development of cross-strait relations is learning to respect each other.
Full Text below:
This year's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting will be held in late November, in Lima, Peru. Several candidates are rumored to be President Ma Ying-jeou's choice of representative to the unofficial meeting of national leaders. But before he picks someone to represent him, President Ma should attempt to attend in person.
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation organization was established in 1991. In the organization's memorandum of understanding, agreed to by all the parties, the Mainland authorities stipulated that Taiwan authorities may send only ministerial-level or lower officials from the Ministry of Economic Affairs. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs may not attend. During the 1993 APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting, the Mainland authorities asked that the restrictions in the Memorandum of Understanding be extended. Taiwan would not be allowed to send officials any higher than the Ministry of Economic Affairs to the meeting.
APEC is a quasi-government organization. In order to reduce political sensitivities and allow the two sides to participate, Member States are referred to as "economies." The Economic Leaders' Meeting is known as the "Informal Economic Leaders' Meeting." But over the years, the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting has become an important diplomatic venue for the heads of Asia-Pacific states and the United States. In fact, as Member States, the Taiwan authorities and the Mainland authorities are completely equal. Leaders of Member States are allowed to attend the summit in high style. Only the Republic of China's leaders are asked to specially designate a representative every year.
Only the President of the Republic of China may not attend. Even the president's special envoy must be kept to the level of Ministers of Economic Affairs and Ministers of Trade, or below. Officials on Taiwan have long been attempting to breakthrough to a higher level. They have been fighting unsuccessfully to allow the Vice Premier, the former Vice President, and the Chairman of the Legislature to attend. In attempts to break through the vague restrictions on political status, they have sent figures with obvious political colors, such as Senior Presidential Adviser Koo Chen-fu and Academia Sinica President Lee Yuan-tse. But such gestures are meaningful only on Taiwan. They have no impact whatsover on APEC's established practices.
Koo Chen-fu has passed away. Lee Yuan-tse is unwilling to participate. In recent years several corporate heads such as Lin Hsin-yi, Morris Chang, Stan Shih have served as the president's Special Envoys. Over the past decades, leaders on Taiwan have gotten no closer to the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting.
Since Ma Ying-jeou became president, cross-strait relations have eased. Ma's "Diplomatic Truce" has become his main policy. Rumor has it former Vice President and Honorary KMT Chairman Lien Chan may attend the APEC Leaders's Meeting on behalf of Ma Ying-jeou. Lien Chan has visited the mainland and established communications channels between the Kuomintang and the CCP. But his identity as a former Vice-President still poses a direct challenge to the framework the Mainland authorities have established for Taiwan. If the past is any indicator, the Mainland authorities will not allow Lien Chan to attend. In the end, the public on Taiwan will decide for itself how much "good will" the Mainland authorities are offering.
In the process of upholding our rights, interests, and equality, President Ma must not relinquish his struggle to attend in person. Even though attending is impossible, our president must make every effort to do so. According to precedent, APEC and the host nation will send a formal invitation to heads of state, They will send a special envoy to formally invite the President of the Republic of China to send a representative. They will even hold a number of back and forth discussions. They will show at least ritual respect. They will acknowledge that the President of the Republic of China has the right to full and equal representation, and that only realpolitik necessitates demeaning the Republic of China.
Even though it has yet to become a reality, APEC precedent has in fact repeatedly confirmed that the President of the Republic of China is eligible to attend the Economic Leaders' Meeting. Ma Ying-jeou has always aggressively sought to attend. Attempting to do so will help uphold the President of the Republic of China's right to attend. We must fight for our rights. If we fail to make an effort because we are overly concerned about cross-strait sensitivities, adverse consequences will follow. A future breakthrough will be more difficult. If the Mainland authorities acquire increased power to determine the Republic of China's international status, and if this authority appears to meet with Taiwan's approval, we must be aware of the political consequences.
Since taking office, President Ma has expressed goodwill toward the Mainland authorities. Beijing has also refrained from luring away Paraguay. But on the international stage the real returns have been slight, particularly with regards international organizations. Former American Institute in Taiwan Taipei Office Director Douglas Paal recently proposed that President Ma "find a title under which he may personally participate in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders Meeting. Over the next two or three years it is very likely to become a reality." This means that during the new era of cross-strait relations, Republic of China officials may make a breakthrough regarding participation in APEC activities. But it will not come without effort. President Ma may have a better chance than in the past.
Beijing has long hoped that Chen Yunlin, President of the Association for Relations Across the Straits, could come to Taiwan. Therefore it makes sense for the leaders of the two sides to meet during the unofficial APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting. Such a meeting would contribute to cross-strait interaction, and deserves the Mainland authorities' careful consideration. The most important prerequisite to the development of cross-strait relations is learning to respect each other.
ＡＰＥＣ是一個半官方國際組織，為了降低政治敏感性，讓兩岸均能參與，成員國均以「經濟體」為單位，領袖峰會也稱為「經濟體非正式領袖會議」。不過多年下 來，ＡＰＥＣ領袖會議已經成了亞太國家與美國一個重要的元首外交場域。作為一個會員國，台灣的地位其實與中共是完全平等的。既然如此，當所有會員國領袖都 可以風風光光出席高峰會，唯獨台灣的領導人每年都被主辦單位要求另行指定代表出席。
不只台灣總統不能與會，連代表總統出席的特使人選也始終被壓低在經貿部長層級。台灣一直想突破限制拉高層級，先後曾爭取由行政院副院長、前副總統和立法院 長出席，但一直無法成功，因此轉而以具政治象徵色彩的總統府資政辜振甫與中研院院長李遠哲出馬，試圖以其政治地位隱約突破官階限制，不過這種細微差異只對 台灣內部有意義，對ＡＰＥＣ已經確立的慣例並無影響。
馬英九就任總統以來，兩岸關係趨於緩和，「外交休兵」也成為政策主軸。近來有傳聞指前副總統、國民黨榮譽主席連戰可能代表馬英九出席ＡＰＥＣ領袖會議，儘 管連戰曾訪問大陸並建立國共溝通平台，但其曾任副總統的身分，仍然對中共在ＡＰＥＣ為台灣設下的框架形成直接挑戰。如果按照過去的慣例，中共大概不會同意 由連戰出席。而事情最後的發展，將是台灣民眾驗證中共對台「善意」的依據。
不過，在程序上、在堅持平等參與權益上，馬總統不能直接就放棄要求親自出席。這些年，就算明知無緣參與，我們的總統總還是盡一切努力爭取，而ＡＰＥＣ與主 辦國慣例上也會送來正式的元首邀請函，並派遣特使央請台灣總統另派代表，甚至還需要來回多次磋商。亦即禮數上做到尊重，且承認台灣元首有充分且平等權利參 與，只因政治現實而必須委屈台灣。
因此，即使到現在尚未成為事實，但在ＡＰＥＣ的運作上，其實已經在慣例中一再確認了台灣元首有出席領袖峰會的資格。馬英九秉持往例積極爭取出席，將是繼續 維持台灣元首出席權的一項重要政治動作。該爭的權利，我們一定要爭；如果因為過分顧忌兩岸氣氛而主動放棄努力，有可造成後續不利影響，讓未來更難獲致突 破。如果讓中共對台灣的國際地位取得更強、且被視為經台灣同意的決定權，其政治效應令人擔憂，台灣不可不慎。
馬總統就任以來對中共不斷拋出善意，但北京除了沒挖走巴拉圭之外，在國際舞台上的實質回報其實很少，尤其是在國際組織部分。前美國在台協會台北辦事處處長 包道格最近建議馬總統，「找個頭銜，親自參與亞太經合會領袖會議，未來兩三年極可能成為事實。」說明在新階段的兩岸關係中，台灣參與ＡＰＥＣ的模式有可能 找到突破點，但是它不會平白降臨，還是需要努力去尋求。但相較之下，也許馬總統會有比過去多一點點的機會。