Expedite Trade in Services Agreement, Postpone Cultural and Creative Industries Negotiations
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
March 18, 2014
Summary: The trade in services agreement has not been fair to Taiwan's cultural and creative industries. Taiwan entrepreneurs have preserved a unique cultural aesthetic within the Chinese cultural tradition. They should be given the opportunity to break into the Mainland market. There, they should find a friend. This is the responsibility of both governments.
Full text below:
Beginning on the 11th, this newspaper published a series of six consecutive articles entitled, "China Times Recommendations on the Trade in Services Agreement." These articles addressed six areas, including finance, commerce, transportation, health, tourism, and the cultural and creative industries. They discussed the pros and cons of the trade in services agreement. Clearly the Mainland was opening up in the trade in services industry to Taiwan before it opened it up to the rest of the world. It was permitting Taiwan to get a jump on its competitors. It was a gesture of goodwill. The Mainland also made more concessions to Taiwan than Taiwan made to the Mainland.
Consider the six service industries evaluated in these articles. Almost all participants look forward to early passage of the trade in services agreement. This would enable them to immediately gain a foothold on the Mainland, and to grab the biggest piece of the pie. Some industries being allowed to operate, such as the finance industry, will increase the amount of RMB-denominated financial instruments. This will be highly beneficial to the investing public. Only the cultural and creative industries are ambivalent about the trade in services agreement. They are simultaneously filled with hope and disappointment. The trade in services agreement is one small step. But we lost an opportunity to take one giant leap. They worry that upon entry into the Chinese language market, Taiwan's cultural and creative industries will be an industry in name only, one without any market. But blocking the trade in services agreement will not help. They won't have the game. They won't even have the name. Hence their internal dilemma. This has led part of the cultural sector to reject the trade in services agreement in toto.
The cross-strait trade in services agreement cultural and creative industries law covers 15 industries. Only two are on the liberalization list. The Mainland has obtained the right to invest in the existing printing industry on Taiwan. But it may not own over half the shares. Taiwan on the other hand, has secured the right to supply the videogame industry. A two month long time limit has been put on approval for Super WTO treatment. Taiwan's content industry faces barrers to access in the Mainland market. This situation has not improved. The wall remains impregnable.
The trade in services agreement was signed last year. Culturally oriented publications on Taiwan expressed disappointment and regret. The ostensible reason was the one-sided market opening. Taiwan was required to unilaterally allow Mainland investment in Taiwan's existing printing industry. It was not allowed to become a majority shareholder. But the Mainland refused to make any concessions. The DPP, which opposes the trade in services agreement, reveled in Schadenfreude. It turned the matter into a political storm. In fact, Taiwan has never restricted Japanese, European, and American investment in the printing industry. So how can Mainland capital become a threat? The real reason people in the cultural and creative industries are complaining, is that government negotiators failed to deal with a single link in the publishing industry chain. The publishing industry on the Mainland is highly regulated. Opening up our side did not create any upstream or downstream market opportunities for our side.
Ever since the two sides began cross-strait exchanges, we have been regaled with talk of concessions. But the cultural and creative industries, including film and television, publishing, digital content, and the videogame industry cannot wait for concessions. The two sides have different economic systems. This has resulted in unfair trade barriers. Taiwan complains of restrictions. But market opening has created difficulties for management. As a result, the restrictions are mere formalities. Take the videogame industry for example. Taiwan has banned the videogame industry on Taiwan. But Mainland companies are going ahead. The already account for almost half of the market on Taiwan. But the Mainland is being ultra cautious. As long as Taiwan share holders are involved, progress is nearly impossible. The Taiwan videogame industry controls under 1% of the Mainland market. The system has led to unfair competition. It has forced the industry to rethink whether Taiwan and the Mainland are really friends, or whether it should formulate a business strategy that excludes the Mainland.
Mainland authorities should address this matter. In the cultural and creative industries Taiwan entrepreneurs have run into a brick wall. Young people love videogames. Taiwan-based companies are forced to give up markets in the Chinese hinterland. Why? Even Hollywood embraces the Chinese Dream. They welcome Mainland investments. They cast many Chinese stars in their films. Must people on Taiwan formulate a cultural and creative industry strategy that excludes the Mainland market?
During the KMT era the government banned puppet theater broadcasts. Today, the Mainland authorities impose content restrictions. Anyone who lived through those times understands this mentality. Back then puppet theater was banned. Today it has become the vanguard of Taiwan's cultural and creative industry. Some want puppet theater to be broadcast on national satellite television channels on the Mainland. But this is still a fantasy. Mainland authorities should change their thinking. Teresa Teng's banned songs are among the sweetest memories shared by both sides. The two sides should create new memories together.
We issue this earnest appeal. The trade in services agreement is currently being reviewed in the legislature. The Taipei Computer Association will run an industry-sponsored advertisement entitled, "Taiwan Can Be Better." It will support the trade in services agreement. There is no reason why young people on the two sides must drift farther and farther apart. Young people from Taiwan should not ecounter only frustration on the Mainland.
The trade in services agreement has not been fair to Taiwan's cultural and creative industries. But what it has given, should take effect as soon as possible. The issue of access for Taiwan's cultural entrepreneurs can be discussed under the WTO cross-strait trade in services market and trade agreements, or under a cross-strait cultural agreement.
Taiwan entrepreneurs have preserved a unique cultural aesthetic within the Chinese cultural tradition. They should be given the opportunity to break into the Mainland market. There, they should find a friend. This is the responsibility of both governments.
中國時報 本報訊 2014年03月18日 04:10