President Ma, Chairman Su, and the Free Trade Zone
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 29, 2012
Summary: We hope the ruling and opposition parties can reach a bipartisan consensus. We hope they can establish a Free Trade Zone, as a prelude to the TPP and a Free Trade Island. If they cannot, then we suggest turning Greater Taichung or Greater Taipei into pilot projects. Transform them into harbingers of the future for all Taiwan. We must not allow the DPP to repeat its mistakes.
Full Text below:
Su Tseng-chang has been elected Democratic Progressive Party Chairman. President Ma Ying-jeou phoned and congratulated him. He invited Su to hold ruling and opposition party talks. Su agreed, saying "Yes, yes." Afterwards they expressed their willingness to keep their appointment. They agreed that the the ruling and opposition parties must ensure the peoples' welfare and reduce the peoples' suffering.
The nation is besieged with problems. Ma and Su can of course discuss anything they wish. But we hope they will focus their attention on the Kaohsiung Free Trade Zone. They should look to the future. This is the key that will open a hundred doors. This project is vital to the future of the nation.
The Ma administration announced that it would set up a Free Trade Zone in Kaohsiung. In the months since, DPP leaders have yet to respond. Chen Chu was both DPP Chairman Pro Tem and Mayor of Kaohsiung. Yet she said nothing about the Free Trade Zone. Do DPP leaders support the project or not? Do they want revisions for improvements? So far we have no idea.
A few days ago DPP Legislator Hsu Tien-tsai finally spoke out. He said the Free Trade Zone unilaterally opened itself to Mainland China. He said it embodied "one country, two regions" political thinking. He said it was a policy blunder that could undermine Taiwan's economy, trade, and the peoples' livelihood. He said it ran a real risk of "selling out Taiwan." He said the Free Trade Zone could be a way for Mainland China to enter the Taiwan market and establish an SAR. He accused Minister of Economic Affairs Ying Chi-min, who presides over the project, of being the "Wu San-kuei of Taiwan's economy."
Hsu Tien-tsai's allegations about the Free Trade Zone bear no resemblance to reality. If anything, the Free Trade Zone is a pilot program for gradual trade and economic liberalization. Consider it preparatory work for the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement). Its ultimate goal is to establish Taiwan as a Free Trade Island.
Hsu Tien-tsai's allegations are nonsense. One. The goal of the Free Trade Area is to join the TPP. Its purpose is to move towards a Free Trade Island. Its purpose is obviously not to enable Mainland China to enter the Taiwan market and transform Taiwan into an SAR. It has nothing to do with political disputes over "one country, two regions." Two. The opposite is true. Its goals are TPP and a Free Trade Island. These will reduce cross-Strait economic and trade dependency. These will help integrate Taiwan into the international trade system. The Free Trade Zone and TPP will establish deep-rooted international economic and trade relations. These will bolster the Republic of China' political stature and increase its national security. Therefore the Free Trade Zone is a plan to save Taiwan, not "sell out Taiwan."
Taiwan today faces a dilemma. It has powerful economic and trade competitors such as South Korea. Several of these competitors have signed FTAs. Taiwan's primary export market and trading partner is Mainland China. It has signed or will sign FTAs with Taiwan's major competitors. Taiwan hopes to reduce dependency on the Mainland. The effectiveness of ECFA is gradually being weakened by other nations' FTAs. If we do not join the TPP, Taiwan will be economically and politically marginalized. Taiwan will be in dire straits. In order to save Taiwan, why not start by establishing a Free Trade Zone?
It should be obvious to all. A Sword of Damocles hangs over the island. Can Taiwan join the TPP and become a Free Trade Island? Taiwan still lacks political and economic support. The going will be tough. If Taiwan cannot join the TPP and become a Free Trade Island, it will not escape economic and political marginalization. Besides, Taiwan is still undergoing liberalization. The tug of war between "giving and taking" remains intense. Even if the ruling and opposition parties on Taiwan reach an agreement, the going will remain tough. If the ruling and opposition parties cannot agree, the going will be impossible. Taiwan will be denied a new lease on life.
The Ma administration proposes establishing a Free Trade Zone, as a prelude to the TPP, and eventually a Free Trade Island. We now await the DPP's response. The pilot project is in Kaohsiung, which is under Green administration. Fortunately, Hsu Tien-tsai's charges are still considered "personal opinions." But if his rhetoric becomes official DPP policy, the party will find it difficult to change course. Therefore we hope that when President Ma and Chairman Su meet, they will affirm the value of the Free Trade Zone. For one thing it will broaden the horizons for the DPP. For another it will rescue Taiwan from concurrent crises.
Hsu Tien-tsai's allegations essentially parrot the allegations the DPP made against ECFA over the past five years. They say cross-Strait exchanges and ECFA "sell out Taiwan," and "humiliate the nation." They call it a "Trojan Horse." They say "it will leave workers on Taiwan unable to find work, and women on Taiwan unable to find husbands." These allegations are worse than cliches. They are inversions of the truth. The DPP held high the anti-ECFA banner during the 2012 election, only to suffer a painful setback. Does the DPP really intend to hold high an anti-free market banner as it heads into the 2016 general election?
We hope the ruling and opposition parties can reach a bipartisan consensus. We hope they can establish a Free Trade Zone, as a prelude to the TPP and a Free Trade Island. If they cannot, then we suggest turning Greater Taichung or Greater Taipei into pilot projects. Transform them into harbingers of the future for all Taiwan. We must not allow the DPP to repeat its mistakes.
2012.05.29 02:59 am