Friday, March 26, 2010

Is ECFA a Phony Issue?

Is ECFA a Phony Issue?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
March 26, 2010

President Ma Ying-jeou and Premier Wu Den-yih have expressed their willingness to debate ECFA with DPP chairman Tsai Ing-wen. Tsai Ing-wen has finally relented, saying that "The leaders of the two parties will have to debate ECFA eventually." But she then demanded that the ruling and opposition party caucuses in the legislature first conduct an investigation and submit a report. The consensus is that Tsai Ing-wen has responded tactically, but deliberately thrown up obstacles strategically.

ASEAN plus One is already a reality. ECFA is now a matter of urgency. Its signing is scheduled for June. For Tsai Ing-wen to lay down the condition that "The Legislative Yuan must conduct an independent investigation" at such a late date, is merely a ploy to delay the process by two months, then shrug off any debate, alleging that the "The Ma administration is not serious." This will allow it to shift the responsibility onto Ma Ying-jeou, and leave the debate hanging in the air.

Quibbling over the "Two Yings Meeting" has gone on for some time. The "Two Yings" are of course Ma Ying-jeou and Tsai Ing-wen. Tsai Ing-wen has constantly evaded the issue. The debate has now been demoted to the level of a "Two Yings Debate over ECFA." Only then was Tsai Ing-wen willing to respond tactically. Even then, she still laid down strategic obstacles. Actually, what the current political scenario needs is a "Two Yings Macro Level Political Debate" over the nation's overarching political and economy strategy, not a "Two Yings Special Topics Debate" over ECFA. ECFA is not intrinsically a phony issue. But the bipartisan debate over ECFA has turned it into a phony issue.

The DPP says it "is unclear about what ECFA is," and keeps demanding that the Ma administration "make clear what it means." But others wonder, if the DPP is really unclear about what ECFA is, then why is it so vehement in its opposition? Tsai Ing-wen has even demanded that the Legislative Yuan conduct an independent investigation and submit a report, providing a basis for the debate. But the DPP has been opposed to ECFA all along, regardless of the facts. Does it really need an "independent investigation" to justify its opposition?

As noted earlier, what is needed currently is a "Two Yings Macro Level Political Debate" over the nation's overall strategic political and economic path, not merely a debate over ECFA alone. The Ma administration's political framework is contained within the 1992 Consensus, One China, Different Interpretations, and No Reunification, No Independence, and No Military Conflict. The Ma administration's trade and economic framework is contained within ECFA. The DPP's political strategy since it stepped down in 2008 meanwhile, remains undetermined. One could say that it simply has no benchmark against which it can evaluate ECFA. In other words, If the Democratic Progressive Party advocates Taiwan independence and the founding of a new nation, it will have one opinion of ECFA. If the Democratic Progressive Party were to change its Taiwan independence path, it would have a different opinion of ECFA. Since the DPP's positions on national identity and the constitution remain indeterminate. how can it even talk about cross-Strait relations? How can it even talk about ECFA? No wonder some are wondering, can Tsai Ing-wen really "represent" the Democratic Progressive Party at all?

The Republic of China's constitutional strategy and cross-Strait trade and economic strategy must be consistent. A constitutional and political strategy that leads to an economic and trade dead end is impracticable. A cross-Strait strategy that leads to an economic and trade dead end is also impracticable. The DPP has yet to clarify its constitutional strategy. It has yet to tell us whether it still advocates Taiwan independence. It has yet to clarify its cross-Strait strategy. It has yet to tell us whether it still opposes exchanges. Until it does so, how can we know what benchmarks is it using to evaluate ECFA?

Some members of the public may not be aware of ECFA is. But are DPP party leaders really unclear about the main thrust of ECFA? For example, the purpose of ECFA is to cope with globalization and regional economic entities. It is a necessary defensive measure in response to ASEAN plus N, It does not increase imports of agricultural items. It does not introduce mainland workers. It stipulates relief for impacted industries. It stipulates a beneficial "early harvest list." It even includes a "termination clause." Besides, apart from ECFA, what alternatives do we have? Is the Democratic Progressive Party leadership really unclear about all this? Tsai Ing-wen has been involved in WTO and cross-Strait affairs for years. Is she really unclear about all this? Or is she merely using the pretext "I'm unclear" to demagogue the issue? ECFA is not a phony issue per se. But the bipartisan debate over ECFA has turned it into a phony issue.

The Ma administration has a political and economic framework for the Republic of China. From the top down that framework is: a constitutional strategy based on national identity, leading to cross-Strait strategy, leading to economic and trade strategy. In practice, from the bottom up, that framework is: to use economic and trade strategy to stabilize the cross-Strait strategic situation. To use cross-Strait strategy to safeguard the Republic of China and its constitutional framework of "One China, Different Interpretations." Therefore in order to evaluate ECFA, one must take into account this three-tiered strategy. If one fails to talk about constitutional strategy and cross-Strait strategy, and talks only about economic and trade strategy, one may as well follow the prescriptions offered by Green oriented think tanks, and urge industries to set up factories in any of the ASEAN countries. Therefore, if any debate between the Two Yings addresses the issue of ECFA in isolation, it will not solve the problem. What is needed is a Two Yings Debate over the nation's macro level political and economic path. Only that will allow the Republic of China to find a way out of its problems.

Interestingly enough, Tsai Ing-wen's "Platform for the Decade," will soon be made public. Rumor has it the first issue it raises is, surprise surprise, "A Vision for Taiwan's Prosperity," rather than "An Affirmation of Taiwan's Primacy and Its Constitution." How can one assess ECFA by turning a blind eye to the issues and talking only about constitutional strategy? Unless the DPP first makes clear its position on Taiwan independence, how can it offer an extravagant vision for Taiwan's prosperity?

2010.03.26 02:33 am










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