United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
August 4, 2015
Executive Summary: Negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) were scheduled for completion last week. But negotiations on this massive trade liberalization agreement broke down at 98% completion. The final 2% is usually the most difficult part of trade negotiations. So the result was not surprising. This means the TPP is no longer empty talk, and is about to become a concrete reality. For Taiwan, which is interested in joining, the process has entered its final countdown.
Full Text Below:
Negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) were scheduled for completion last week. But negotiations on this massive trade liberalization agreement broke down at 98% completion. The final 2% is usually the most difficult part of trade negotiations. So the result was not surprising. This means the TPP is no longer empty talk, and is about to become a concrete reality. For Taiwan, which is interested in joining, the process has entered its final countdown.
The TPP is the single-handed creation of the United States. At the moment, 12 major Asia-Pacific countries have joined. They include Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, and Malaysia. Since consultations began in 2010, the United States has trumpeted the TPP as the landmark FTA of the 21st century. Therefore in addition to traditional liberalization of tariffs, service industries, and foreign investments, negotiations will also include
e-commerce, regulatory transparency, fair competition in state-owned enterprises, environmental protection, labor rights, anti-corruption provisions, and other new economic and trade issues. They will even include SME cooperation, capacity building, and the development of partnership type trade and development agreements.
The United States authored TPP has four characteristics. They are: A high degree of liberalization, a wide range of issues, regulatory reform, and timeliness. The above mentioned passages are consistent with these four characteristics. In any event, the TPP is essentially an FTA. The participating countries all want ways to eliminate tariffs, and to open markets to the service industries and foreign investment. Labor and environmental protection provisions prevent governments from lowering environmental and labor standards with sweatshops to increase competitiveness. Transparency regulations ensure that the views of foreign businesses will be clearly reflected in foreign policy. Anti-corruption provisions prevent the use of funds for bribery instead of economic competition.
The TPP's complicated nature makes negotiations difficult. First, TPP members are diverse. They include industrial giant Japan, but also Malaysia, Vietnam and other rising stars. They also include other large agricultural interests in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, and Peru. Their interests differ. So do their pressures. Japan is strong industrially, yet several agricultural products, such as rice, beef, and pork, are considered sacrosanct and inviolable. Complex interests in all countries make balancing interests extremely difficult.
Second, the 21st century indices of the TPP for health care pricing transparency, anti-corruption, competitive neutrality of state-owned enterprises, labor protection, environmental protection, all impact domestic policy, creating internal conflicts of interest. Using economic and trade agreements to resolve domestic conflicts is no simple matter.
Third, the participating countries are numerous. This sharply increases the difficulty of negotiations. On top of which the United States fired the first shot, to underscore its leadership and pivot to Asia. This makes compromise on liberalization even more difficult. Being pressured to sign for the sake of signing is another source of resistance.
Under these circumstances, the fact that the TPP is 98% complete after five years is astonishing. Meeting the timetable over the past several months involved behind the scenes considerations. Most importantly, US president Obama's term of office ends next year. Only six months remain before election considerations begin to influence TPP congressional review. Even more urgent is Canada's October elections. The pressure exerted by that is greater still. Each nation wants the agreement reached swiftly. If the United States loses its sense of urgency, overall momentum will be lost. The current talks have failed. The nations will begin bilateral talks with rivals and nations that present the most serious problems. Twists and turns in the coming weeks cannot be ruled out.
Each of the nations joining the TPP will pay a price. Membership will help industries lower export barriers. Nations will use the TPP to accelerate domestic reform. For example, they will be used to convince sweatshop bosses that the old way will no longer work. Governments will use the United States to overcome resistance within their own countries. Based on past experience, external pressure for reform is quicker and more thorough than attempts to achieve domestic consensus.
For Taiwan, joining the TPP is not about this. Taiwan corruption mitigation, environmental protection, and labor standards meet international standards. But transparency and regulation still fall short compared to the United States and Australia. It still has many state-owned enterprises. One of Taiwan's largest scale reforms took place over 10 years ago, when it joined the World Trade Organization (WTO). This opened up the mobile phone market and abolished the Tobacco and Wine Monopoly. These international obligations accelerated internal reforms. Without them Vietnam and Malaysia would have leapfrogged ahead, and Taiwan would have been too late. Moreover, the TPP does not apply to the Chinese mainland. It does not involve complex and sensitive cross-Strait issues. Therefore we pray the TPP passes quickly, re-opens the door, and invites Taiwan in. The only question that remains is: Is Taiwan Ready?
這個巨型貿易自由化協定，在宣布完成度九八％後破局。 經貿談判最後的二％通常都是最困難的問題， 這個結果並不令人意外。然而，這也意味ＴＰＰ不再是空談的概念， 即將具體成形。對於有意加入下一輪選秀的台灣而言， 時間表已經進入了倒數階段。
越等十二個亞太主要國家加入的ＴＰＰ，是美國一手主導的產物。 自二○一○年開始協商時，美國就講得很明白： ＴＰＰ將是廿一世紀自貿協定的指標。也因此，在談判議題上， 除了傳統的關稅、服務業及投資等自由化外， ＴＰＰ更包括了電子商務、法規透明、國營事業公平競爭、 環境保護、勞工權益及防貪條款等新興經貿議題， 乃至於中小企業合作、能力建構及貿易與發展等屬於「夥伴」 性質的專章。
議題涵蓋廣泛」、「監管法規革新」及「與時俱進」。 從前述的章節來看，確實符合這四項特徵。無論如何， ＴＰＰ骨子裡還是一個自貿協定， 參與的國家都一樣要想辦法消除關稅、開放服務業及投資。 勞工及環境保護的主要目的， 則是擔心有國家利用降低環保及勞工標準（即「血汗工廠」）， 作為增加競爭力的手段；要求法規透明， 是希望外資外商的意見能在政策制定過程中清楚表達。 至於防貪條款，更是防制各國運用金錢賄賂而非憑實力競爭的機制。
ＴＰＰ的成員成分多元，有工業老大哥日本，也有馬來西亞、 越南等後起之秀，更有美、加、澳、紐及智利、秘魯等農業大國， 利益不同，壓力也不同。日本工業極強，卻把好幾個農產品（ 如稻米、牛豬肉等）視為不可侵犯的神聖領域。各國利益錯綜複雜， 算盤要如何打才能獲致利益平衡點，確實不易。
國營事業競爭中立、環保勞工保護等，都深入到各國的境內政策， 內部利益衝突更大。利用經貿協定來解決這些內部問題， 確實不容易。
已經跌破了一堆眼鏡。這幾個月完成的時間表，有一些幕後考量； 其中最重要的是，美國歐巴馬總統明年任期就結束， 約僅剩半年時間可以在比較沒有選舉干擾下， 嘗試讓ＴＰＰ送國會審查。更急的是加拿大，十月就要大選， 壓力更大。各國擔心，若不一鼓作氣完成，一旦美國失去時間壓力， 整體速度就會出現「再而衰、三而竭」的困擾。這次大會談不成， 各國開始找問題比較大的對手展開雙邊會談， 所以絕對不能排除接下來幾週峰迴路轉完成談判的可能性。
除了協助各自國內業者降低出口障礙外， 更是設法利用ＴＰＰ這個美國主導的外力， 作為推動國內改革的加壓和加速器（例如，說服血汗工廠的老闆， 舊路行不通了），讓美國來對抗各國國內反對力量。在過去經驗中， 這種有外來助力的改革效果，會比「國內共識」來得更快更徹底。
雖然台灣貪汙問題減緩，環保及勞工標準基本已符合國際標準， 但是法規的透明程度還是比不上美澳，國營企業還是很多。 台灣最大一次的體制改革，就是發生在十餘年前加入世貿組織（ ＷＴＯ）時，開放行動電話、廢除菸酒公賣； 若不讓我們自己利用國際義務再次加速這些更深層的改革， 一旦等越南、馬來西亞都改革到位時，就怕為時已晚！ 況且ＴＰＰ沒有中國大陸的困擾，不涉及複雜而敏感的兩岸問題。 所以我們也應祈禱ＴＰＰ加速完成，這樣它才能再開大門迎台灣。 剩下的問題就是：台灣準備好了嗎？