DPP: Why Not Renounce TIFA Outright?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
June 12 2012
Summary: Today the Legislative Yuan will vote on whether to allow U.S. beef imports. The Green Camp has threatened a bloody struggle. It is engaging in all out obstructionism. Blue Camp legislators are of two minds. Some are ready to run for cover and vote Green. The Legislative Yuan is about to witness yet another ruling vs. opposition party melee. This is hardly surprising. But TIFA has been delayed for seven years. Do the opposition Green Camp parties really not care?
Full Text below:
Today the Legislative Yuan will vote on whether to allow U.S. beef imports. The Green Camp has threatened a bloody struggle. It is engaging in all out obstructionism. Blue Camp legislators are of two minds. Some are ready to run for cover and vote Green. The Legislative Yuan is about to witness yet another ruling vs. opposition party melee. This is hardly surprising. But TIFA has been delayed for seven years. Do the opposition Green Camp parties really not care?
The U.S. beef imports bill must pass. It must pass not because it is a major Ma administration policy initiative. It must pass because it is the final obstacle in the way of restarting talks over the Taiwan-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). The government must ensure the quality of U.S. beef imports. It must fight for international economic and trade advantages. It can do both. Ensuring economic prosperity does not require sacrificing the health of the people. The Green Camp has declared war. It intends to prevent the import of U.S. beef products. But is it "defending Taiwan's interests?" Or is it standing in the way of Taiwan's economic development?
Some Blue Camp legislators are wobbling. They say they are unsure what they are fighting for. But this is exactly the question we should be asking the DPP. When you insist on preventing U.S. beef imports, just exactly what are you fighting for? Are you fighting for pig farmers? The Ma administration has already persuaded Washington to distinguish between beef and pork. Are you fighting for public health? Japan and South Korea have established strict quality control standards. Haven't these achieved that very goal? Are you "fighting for Taiwan?" Then shouldn't Taiwan's trade relations and economic growth take priority over US beef imports with Clenbuterol and Ractopamine? Is the DPP fighting for any of these ostensible goals? Or is the DPP waging this demagogic battle, and engaging in this populist rabble-rousing merely for its own selfish political advantage?
As the political opposition, Green Camp political parties feel a compulsion to engage in political obstructionism, in order to accumulate political capital. This is the essence of the game of democracy. But lest we forget, beneath the offensive and defensive maneuvers, beneath all the checks and balances, democracy requires rationality -- if it is to survive. Besides jockeying for position against their rivals, political parties must also show us what they stand for. U.S. beef imports and TIFA are both policies the Democratic Progressive Party championed when it was in office. Now that the DPP has been relegated to the status of an opposition party, it has reverted to obstructionism. The DPP's opportunistic behavior tells us it has no core values. If the DPP insists on forcefully preventing U.S. beef imports, it might as well come right out and renounce TIFA. It should openly proclaim that if the DPP ever returns to power, it will refuse to sign TIFA. Only this will absolve it from the charge of flip-flopping, and chronic and habitual deceit.
The DPP boasts that it intends to use the anti-ECFA methods it adopted two years ago to prevent U.S. beef imports. Such intimidation tactics may appear tough, but they are actually confessions of impotence. The Democratic Progressive Party demonized ECFA. It said ECFA would bring disaster upon the nation. It said ECFA was a sugar-coated poison pill that would forfeit sovereignty and humilate the nation. The DPP boasted that it would obstruct US beef imports in the Legislative Yuan. The DPP even threatened a referendum to nullify the US beef imports bill in the event it passed. But ECFA soon proved its effectiveness. During last year's election campaign Tsai Ing-wen suddenly declared that she would not nullify ECFA in the event she was elected president. She was so arrogant before, and so deferential afterwards. Does the DPP really want U.S. beef imports to be a replay of the ECFA fiasco?
Given the current make up of the Legislative Yuan, the DPP's threat of blanket obstructionism is not terribly worrisome. More worrisome is the ruling and opposition parties' zero-sum game. This will result in the coarsening of the legislative process. Take U.S. beef imports. We expect the opposition parties to put forth a more detailed plan for the control of Clenbuterol and Ractopamine. Instead, they are indiscriminately calling for a halt to everything. Take TIFA. We hope the DPP can offer constructive alternatives once the talks resume. They could help ensure a more level playing field during Taipei/Washington negotiations. They could help maximize Taiwan's interests. But so far the Green Camp's only response has been "No!" It has no desire to seek more complex answers. It has no desire to rationally assess the pros and cons. Suppose the Green Camp's sneak attack succeeds. Suppose it brings the legislative process to a standstill. At most it will delay the vote by a few days. But will it win the respect of the public on Taiwan?
Five years ago, the DPP used a U-lock and superglue to lock the Speaker of the Legislature out of the Legislative Chambers. Wang Jin-pyng was unable to preside over the ongoing session. The DPP did this merely to prevent passage of the Central Election Commission Organization Act. Its conduct left an ugly record of coarseness, without the slightest trace of respect for the spirit of democracy. Meanwhile some Blue Camp legislators are whining "We don't know what we're fighting for." They are even more pathetic. They are members of the ruling party. They cannot walk away from questions of right and wrong. They are standing on the battlefield. Yet they have the gall to claim that they cannot tell friend from foe? Are they waiting for acknowledgement and approval? Are they waiting for the party to give them a wake-up call?
In recent years democracy on Taiwan has remained deadlocked. The main reason is that partisan political interests are presented to the public as national interests. Politicians have learned how to play the political game faster than the public has been able to learn how democracy works. But if the DPP thinks it makes no difference whether we sign TIFA, then it should say so, openly. It should not hide behind the shield of US beef imports, in order to hoodwink the public.