Wednesday, February 25, 2009

How Would the DPP Have People Respond to ASEAN Plus Three?

How Would the DPP Have People Respond to ASEAN Plus Three?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
February 25, 2009

Last weekend the Presidential Office and the Straits Exchange Foundation held a Conference on Financial and Economic Affairs, and a Conference on National Affairs. The question of whether the Taipei and Beijing should sign a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) led to yet another confrontation between the ruling and opposition parties. The government intends to promote CECA. The Democratic Progressive Party and Taiwan Solidarity Union vehemently oppose it.

In fact, ASEAN plus One, the One being Beijing, or ASEAN plus Three, the Three being Beijing, Tokyo, and Seoul, all came into being during the Democratic Progressive Party's eight year regime. An Internet search will show that during this eight-year period, both ruling and opposition party cognoscenti were aware of the situation. Even the Chen administration's economic and trade officials and research organizations issued stern warnings. But during its eight years in power, the DPP government deliberately sat on this life and death issue. It never warned the public about the dangers or put the issue up for public discussion. The situation has deteriorated to where it is now a matter of extreme urgency. The DPP not only refuses to apologize to the public for the past eight years, all it is willing to do is say "No!"

Next year ASEAN plus One will implement mutual exemption of tariffs. In 2012 ASEAN plus Three will do the same. The population of ASEAN plus Three totals two billion. It will be the world's most populous free trade body. If it develops into ASEAN plus Six, adding India, Australia, and New Zealand, its population will total 3.1 billion, over half the world. Taipei has close economic and trade ties to these Asia-Pacific nations. Exports and trade with them constitute over half of Taiwan's total exports and trade. We have to ask the DPP: If the public on Taiwan is excluded from an economic framework consisting of two to three billion people, does it have any chance of survival?

The Democratic Progressive Party may object to CECA. But it cannot deny the impact of ASEAN plus N on Taiwan's economic lifeblood. Therefore if the Democratic Progressive Party want to oppose CECA, it must offer the people an alternative.

The Democratic Progressive Party's fatal illness is that when asked to offer strategies for the nation's survival, it knows only how to say no. It is unable to offer any viable alternatives. For example, the DPP knows only how to repudiate the Republic of China, even when it is obvious that Taiwan Independence and the establishment of a Nation of Taiwan is not a viable alternative. Today, the Democratic Progressive Party opposes CECA. But it hasn't offered the public any alternative. Are we to understand that the DPP's "alternative" is Taiwan Independence and the establishment of a Nation of Taiwan?

Does the DPP intend to oppose CECA regardless of the consequences? Or is it willing to conditionally endorse CECA? For example, is the DPP opposed only to articles within CECA that it says "harm our sovereignty?" Is it willing to endorse CECA upon the condition that it does not "harm our sovereignty?" Is the DPP willing to endorse CECA on the express or tacit understanding that Beijing will not prevent Taipei's participation in ASEAN or Taipei's signing of FTAs with other nations, and that CECA will not run the risk of tying Taipei's hands. The DPP need no longer play the role of "Mr. No." It should consider playing a positive role, one that will win it points. If it wants to keep saying no, the Democratic Progressive Party must offer a viable alternative. It cannot "just say no."

Tsai Ing-wen said that CECA is not merely an economic and trade issue, that it is also a political issue involving sovereignty. But CECA is not a political issue. It is fundamentally an economic and trade issue. The Republic of China's sovereignty has often been distorted. This is so without CECA. It is not any more so with CECA. Put simply, as long as CECA does not specify reunification or One Country, Two Systems, as long as after signing CECA, the Republic of China continues to elect its own President, as long as the Legislative Yuan continues operating, business as usual, as long as the Judicial Yuan remains open for business, how exactly does CECA "harm our sovereignty?" If CECA helps Taipei avoid the risk of economic and trade marginalization, and allows it to participate in ASEAN plus N or the East Asian Economic Community, isn't it "increasing our sovereignty?"

CECA is not something that sprang out of a rock. It is an issue the DPP has attempted to squash for eight years. The Democratic Progressive Party was in power for eight years. It committed the colossal blunder of ignoring a problem, thereby allowing it to grow. Does it still insist on severing economic and trade links between Taipei and ASEAN?

The Democratic Progressive Party may object to CECA. But it must offer a responsible alternative. Please do not tell us that alternative is Taiwan independence. Because that will make our participation in ASEAN plus N even less likely!

2009.02.25 02:29 am










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