Is Washington Profiteering from Taipei's Plight?
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
October 29, 2009
The U.S. beef controversy has heated up over the past several days, making the situation increasingly difficult to resolve. At the local level, the Taipei Municipal Government took the lead. It imposed controls blocking the inflow of questionable U.S. beef into Taipei. It forbade primary and secondary schools within the city from using it as lunch ingredients. Many cities and counties are considering following suit. This amounts to a trend among local governments. If everyone on Taiwan boycotts U.S. beef, the impact will be significant.
Politically speaking, lawmakers in the Legislative Yuan, both Blue and Green, are firmly opposed to allowing these imports. Former Director of Health Yeh Chin-chuan promised legislators that before the administration allowed in any U.S. beef imports, it would seek prior approval from the Legislative Yuan. But it clearly failed to do so before signing an agreement with Washington. It even allowed bone-in meats and organ meats. How could it not precipitate a controversy?
The current U.S. beef controversy admittedly involves domestic demagoguery, deliberate obfuscation, and insufficient clarity from the ruling administration. But the real culprit behind the scenes is Washington. Everyone wants the National Security Council and the Council of Agriculture to tell us what we received in return for allowing in U.S. beef organ meats. These two agencies have hemmed and hawed, and not explained matters clearly. Although we do not know what deal they made, it is not difficult to understand why the government agencies involved are so tight-lipped.
Take rumors of a TIFA or arms sales between Taipei and Washington for example. Taipei is caught between Beijing and Washington. It finds itself between a rock and a hard place. Taipei has finally, with great difficulty, brought stability to cross-Strait relations. It has been aggressively negotiating ECFA, only to have a monkey wrench thrown into the works. Theoretically Taipei can negotiate FTAs with other countries even as it negotiates ECFA with Beijing. But the reality is that FTAs with other nations cannot be made public until ECFA has been signed. The revelation of any tacit understanding or agreement between Taipei and Washington could set back bilateral progress over ECFA. That is not a setback Taipei can withstand. The outside world must realize that although Taipei might have an understanding with Washington over a TIFA or FTA, it cannot say so openly.
Besides United States beef imports, another news item concerns Taipei and Washington, namely, huge increases in the price of U.S. arms. According to newspaper reports Washington recently asked Taipei to install "anti-leak intelligence software," ruthlessly forcing Taipei to fork out as much as 1.8 billion dollars. Add to this radar and radar peripherals costing billions of dollars. Washington is clearly exploiting Taipei's dependence upon the US for its defense. Washington is profiteering from Taipei's plight. Taipei is in dire financial straits. The national budget is only a trillion dollars or so. But the defense budget alone accounts for over 300 billion. Much of this is arms purchases. Under the circumstances, what is pressuring Taipei to pay through the nose for arms purchases, if not blackmail?
In fact, Washington sees Taipei's plight quite clearly. Washington's calculations are made in America's own national interest. We understand that. But Washington sees Taipei's plight, then coerces it into buying its unmarketable beef organ meats, its bone-in meats, or overpriced military equipment. It is profiteering from Taipei's plight. That is intolerable. Whether Taipei can establish mutually beneficial economic and trade relations with other countries outside of ECFA, depends upon both Beijing and Washington. During President Chen Shui-bian's term, relations between Taipei and Beijing were non-existent. Relations between Taipei and Washington were extremely tense. The triangular relationship between Taipei, Beijing, and Washington was essentially tranformed into a bilateral relationship between Taipei and Washington. Once President Ma Ying-jeou took office, he began rebuilding the connection between Taipei and Beijing. This is beneficial to Taipei's international space. It is also beneficial to stability in the Western Pacific Rim, and indirectly beneficial to Washington.
Washington wants Taipei to sign an ECFA with Beijing. But it does not want cross-Strait relations to become too chummy, to the point where they undermine Taipei's relations with Washington. That sort of development could lead to another sort of imbalance between Taipei, Beijing, and Washington. But if Washington alienates the public on Taiwan by linking beef imports with military procurements, it may drive Taipei and Beijing closer together. Would that be consistent with Washington's interests?
In sum, we call upon Washington to see clearly the macro level Big Picture between Taipei, Beijing, and Washington, and not take advantage of Taipei's plight to make a profit from our hardship. United States President Barack Obama has just been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He should conduct himself in a manner befitting the president of a great nation and the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. To pressure the Ma administration and the ruling KMT into signing a "Makuan Treaty" on beef organ meats and beef brains, one month before the County and Municipal Elections, is surely a myopic and obtuse strategy. Taking advantage of Taipei's plight to raise prices on weapons for national defense hardly qualifies as proper long-term diplomatic policy. To force Taipei to sign a treaty under duress, provoking an anti-American backlash among the public, betrays a lack of strategic vision. The United States President has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Are US government agencies determined to generate friction between Taipei, Beijing, and Washington at a time like this? Is profiteering from Taipei's plight the Barack Obama administration's idea of how to promote peace?
美 國牛肉事件這幾天越演越烈，也使局面難以收拾。就地方政府而言，台北市率先發難，要以行政程序阻擋有疑慮的美國牛肉流入北市，也不准市內國中小學營養午餐 用做食材；隨後全台許多縣市亦考慮跟進，頗有地方政府大串聯之勢。萬一台灣四處形成抵制美國牛的風潮，風起雲湧之下，恐怕造成極大的衝擊。
坦 白說，這次美國牛肉的風波，固然有國內操作不當、解釋不明、行政交接不清等疏失，但事後真正的罪魁禍首卻是老美。大家都問國安會與農委會開放美牛內臟究竟 換到什麼利益，但這兩個單位都支吾其辭，難以交代明白。我們雖然不了解真正的交換利益內容，卻不難理解政府相關單位難以啟齒的原因。
以 外傳台美之間的ＴＩＦＡ或軍售為例，台灣夾在老共與老美之間，真是好生為難。台灣好不容易把兩岸關係弄穩當了，也與對岸積極洽談ＥＣＦＡ，但最後結果還是 有一些變數。台灣固然可以同時與中共及其他國家平行談判ＦＴＡ，但是現實情況卻是：其他的ＦＴＡ一定要等ＥＣＦＡ簽定之後才能曝光。萬一台美之間任何默契 或協議曝光，進而影響到兩岸ＥＣＦＡ的簽署進度，那對台灣可是不可承受之痛。明乎此，外界就不難理解：就算台美真有什麼ＴＩＦＡ或ＦＴＡ的共識，卻也不便 挑明了講。
在 美國牛肉之外，另一則與台美關係有關的新聞，則是美對台軍售的大漲價。報載最近美國要求台灣加裝「防情資洩密軟體」，狠狠敲台灣竹槓達十八億，外加雷達本 體及周邊設備十億美元，是吃定了台灣國防對美國的依賴，而獅子大開口，也是在發台灣的國難財。台灣的財政情況惡劣，整個國家預算也不過一兆數千億，單單國 防預算就有三千多億，其中又有一大塊是軍購支出。在這樣的壓力環境下逼台灣政府埋單大筆軍購預算，這不是敲詐是什麼呢？
台 灣艱困處境，其實老美是很清楚的。美國為自己國家利益打算，我們當然理解。但美國若是看準了台灣的困難，而趁機向台灣壓迫出口其國內根本沒有行情的牛內臟 與牛骨或是大漲武器售價，那就是趁台灣的「國難」發財，非常要不得。台灣在ＥＣＦＡ之外究竟能與多少國家建立經貿互惠關係，一則看老共，二則看老美。在陳 水扁總統時代，兩岸不僅斷線，中美之間也極為緊張；台、中、美之間的三角關係幾乎已經質變為台美之間的雙向關係。馬英九總統上任之後努力想重建兩岸之間的 連線，一方面固然對台灣的國際空間有利，另一方面也有助於太平洋西岸的穩定，間接也有利於美國。
整 體而言，我們要呼籲美國看清楚台、中、美之間的大環境與大形勢，而不要趁機在台灣的困難處境之中發我們的國難財。美國總統歐巴馬剛剛才獲頒諾貝爾和平獎， 總該有點大國大總統的受獎高度。逼台灣馬政府與執政黨的談判代表在年底縣市長選舉前一個多月簽下牛雜牛腦的「馬關」條約，絕對是短多長空的笨策略。利用台 灣的艱困處境拚命將國防武器漲價，也絕對不是長期外交的妥善做法。逼台灣簽城下之盟，激起民間一股反美的非官方運動，更是缺乏戰略視野與思惟。難道，在美 國總統領諾貝爾和平獎之際，美國的行政部門卻努力在製造台、中、美之間的摩擦？難道，發台灣的國難財竟是歐巴馬手下官員推動和平的策略之一？