Political Barriers Not Crossed by Eight Chiang-Chen Meetings
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
August 7, 2012
Summary: Beijing's bottom line erected insurmountable political barriers for all eight Chiang-Chen Meetings. Cross-strait negotiations are based on the 1992 consensus, on the basis of "one China, different interpretations." Economic consultations need not dance to the tune of politics. Can Beijing transcend ideological barriers? Can it allow economics to remain economics? Can it allow cross-Strait relations to ascend to the next level? If the eighth Chiang-Chen Meeting can do so, then its achievements will transcend those of the past.
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The eighth Chiang-Chen Meeting will convene tomorrowin Taipei. The two sides will sign a Cross-Strait Customs Cooperation Agreement and a Cross-Strait Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement. The seventh Chiang-Chen Meeting took place during President Ma's first term. The two sides signed 16 agreements. Altogether the two sides have signed 18 agreements. They have established a solid record of cross-Strait interaction. They have heralded a new stage of mutually beneficial cross-strait relations.
The current Chiang-Chen Meeting will be different from previous meetings. President Ma recently began his second term. The leadership has changed. The CCP will hold its 18th Party Congress in October. Its leadership is also about to change. The current Chiang-Chen Meeting represents a farewell to the past. The eighth Chiang-Chen Meeting is a period. The ARATS-SEF consultations were a semicolon. They clearly connected the two.
The highlight of the eighth Chiang-Chen Meeting will be the signing of the Investment Protection Agreement. Consultations lasted nearly two years. The process was complex. The agreement was supposed to be signed during the sixth and seventh Chiang-Chen Meetings. But both times the meetings concluded without results. As we can see, the agreement was hard won.
During the final stages of consultation, BYD filed an infringement suit against the Hon Hai Group's Foxconn Company. The suit was not actually relevant to the Investment Protection Agreement. The landlord for the Pacific SOGO Dalian Store increased rents an unreasonable amount and cut power to the store. These have become test cases for the effectiveness of the Investment Protection Agreement. Taiwan businessman Chung Ting-pang, who attended Falun Gong events, was detained by Mainland authorities. This is why some oppose the Investment Protection Agreement. The Investment Protection Agreement was originally confined to protecting investments. As we can see, some people expect too much from it.
Nevertheless, the significance of the agreement cannot be denied. One. Taiwan investments on the Mainland were once protected unilaterally by the Taiwan Compatriots Investment Protection Act. Now they are protected bilaterally by the Investment Protection Agreement. ROC authorities can now intervene in any investment disputes. This has dramatically increased the degree of protection afforded Taiwan business people on the Mainland. Two. Mainland companies and individuals have investments on Taiwan. Ruling party changes on Taiwan could jeopardize their interests. The Investment Protection Agreement may help dispel their fears and facilitate the normalization of Mainland investments on Taiwan. Three. The Investment Protection Agreement is one of four follow-up agreements to ECFA. It constitutes a cross-strait economic and trade success. It will facilitate follow-up ECFA negotiations and accelerate cross-Strait free trade.
The Investment Protection Agreement has led to major breakthroughs. But more hurdles must be overcome. Our side was concerned about the personal safety of Taiwan business people. These concerns were addressed in the Investment Protection Agreement. We fought for Taiwan business peoples' personal freedom, and won. If Mainland authorities detain Taiwan business people, they must notify their families within 24 hours, in accordance with "citizen status." Our side sought exemption from the Mainland's newly amended Code of Criminal Law. Our calls for "extra-citizen status" and "unconditional notification" were rejected.
Consider the settlement of disputes between investors (P2P). Our side wanted immunity from Mainland regulations. We were able to secure only arbitration on Taiwan and third party arbitration under Mainland arbitration institutions and arbitration rules. Our side wanted international arbitration for disputes between investors and local governments (P2G). The Mainland side refused. Multilateral mediation with fewer teeth was substituted.
In the final analysis, the cross-Strait Investment Protection Agreement was dogged by political factors. The Mainland side objected to the internationalization of cross-Strait issues blurring the "one China principle." Turning cross-strait P2G disputes over to international arbitration bodies for arbitration violated the political bottom line. The Mainland agreed to notify the family members of those detained by Mainland authorities within 24 hours, based on "citizen status." But to avoid the misintrepretation of cross-strait relations, it substituted the concept of consensus for the concept of sovereignty in the standardized protocol.
Think back to protocols signed during the past seven Chiang-Chen Meetings. Whenever our demands touched upon sovereignty and jurisdiction, Beijing refused to budge. Consider the cross-Strait Maritime Transport Agreement. We have been fighting to get Mainland exports to other countries shipped to Taiwan ports for transit. But the Mainland sees re-exports as relations between sovereign states. It has balked. Our side wants cross-Strait air transport agreements merged into "beyond rights" Fifth Freedom of air travel. Our side wants Mainland visitors to transit Taiwan, then proceed to other countries. But this too is impossible due to political considerations. As a result our side's vision of a cross-Strait direct sea and air operations center has been set back.
Beijing's bottom line erected insurmountable political barriers for all eight Chiang-Chen Meetings. Cross-strait negotiations are based on the 1992 consensus, on the basis of "one China, different interpretations." Economic consultations need not dance to the tune of politics. Can Beijing transcend ideological barriers? Can it allow economics to remain economics? Can it allow cross-Strait relations to ascend to the next level? If the eighth Chiang-Chen Meeting can do so, then its achievements will transcend those of the past.