United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
October 15, 2015
Executive Summary: Five years of negotiations have finally ended. Twelve nations in the Asian-Pacific region, including the United States, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Timor, Chile, Peru, Canada, and Mexico, have negotiated a Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). National Development Council Chairman Woody Duh says Taiwan must join the TPP. The DPP promises that if Tsai Ing-wen comes to power, her push to join the TPP will lead to "seamless integration". Will Taiwan actually be able to join? Many difficulties will first have to be overcome.
Full Text Below:
Five years of negotiations have finally ended. Twelve nations in the Asian-Pacific region, including the United States, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Timor, Chile, Peru, Canada, and Mexico, have negotiated a Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). National Development Council Chairman Woody Duh says Taiwan must join the TPP. The DPP promises that if Tsai Ing-wen comes to power, her push to join the TPP will lead to "seamless integration". Will Taiwan actually be able to join? Many difficulties will first have to be overcome.
The TPP has received such close scrutiny for three reasons. One. TPP member economies are large in scale. They account for 38% of the world's economic output. That exceeds the EU's 25%, and makes the TPP the world's largest free trade zone. Moreover the TPP ranks first in the world in spending power, cutting edge technology, and the ability to attract foreign investment. The TPP has established new norms for digital trade, e-commerce and other "new generation" trade practices. These could become the new model for world trade. Naturally it has drawn attention.
Two. The TPP has a different purpose than past FTAs. Traditional FTAs eliminate tariffs and investment barriers. Their emphasis was on upgrading products to make them more competitive abroad. The TPP goes further. It eliminates barriers for raw materials, capital, and talent for member states. It tightens the supply chains between countries and streamlines cooperation. The agreement imposes many requirements on member states. These include transparent regulations and the reform of state owned enterprises. The agreement even includes a section on enhanced competitiveness for SMEs. The TPP is not merely conducive to the growth of trade and investment among member countries. It also improves member states' global economic competitiveness.
Three. The TPP will have a major impact on non-member states. Taiwan has traditionally been part of the Asian-Pacific supply chain. If Taiwan fails to catch the TPP express, exports to the United States, Japan and other major markets may be affected. Even more seriously, industrial cooperation and the supply chain will be affected. Foreign companies may accelerate their move to TPP countries. Tardy economic reforms may lead to reduced competitiveness, lagging foreign investment, and continued stagnation.
The industrial strength of TPP member states varies. Economic integration will intrude heavily on member states' domestic affairs. Patented and generic drug protection, health care pricing, data transmission, and other sensitive topics, including differences over US beef and pork imports to Taiwan, will make negotiations difficult. Take the elimination of traditional tariffs and investment restrictions. Japan hopes to break into other countries' automotive markets. The United States, Japan, and Australia will have to allow the import of rice, pork, and beef. Vietnam hopes the US will grant zero-tariff treatment on apparel. The United States expects Vietnam to relax restrictions on foreign investment in Vietnam. Each of the 12 countries have their own interests. They have conflicts. They gain in some areas, and lose in others. Agreement requires determination. Such determination highlights the conclusion of TPP negotiations.
Increased protection for patent medicines, increased copyright protection, data transmission deregulation, the standardization and liberalization of investment in public utilities, clearly favor the United States, Japan and other leading countries. Malaysia, Vietnam, and other countries may have to pay a price in the short term. They may be forced to upgrade for the sake of long-term competitiveness. Participation in the TPP is about seeking long-term benefits, rather than winning on individual issues. For the sake of long-term benefits, the government must help vulnerable companies, labor, and the economically disadvantaged.
For Taiwan, catching the TPP II express in the second half of next year is critical. Can Taiwan can arrive at an internal consensus? Can it afford the price of a ticket? Those are the questions. In fact, only one question remains. Given all the pros and cons, can the government persuade industry and society to pay a price for the long-term benefits the TPP will bring?
Unfortunately the timing is bad. Just when we need to make a strong political commitment, Taiwan has entered a dark period. It has entered election season. During election season, no political party will dare to touch any issue that impacts disadvantaged groups for the sake of long-term interests. Also, from January 16 of next year until after the presidential election, when the new administration takes office, we will have a caretaker government. The nature of a caretaker government is a lack of political determination and a don't rock the boat mentality. Furthermore, after May 20, when the new government takes office, it will need several months to grasp the situation.
South Korea, the Philippines, and other countries are lining up to board the TPP express. When the time comes, the train will pull away. Will Taiwan, bound as it is hand and foot, be able to catch the train? That is a deeply worrisome question.
澳、紐、星、馬、越、汶、智、秘、加、墨），完成了「 跨太平洋夥伴協定」（ＴＰＰ）的談判。國發會主委杜紫軍認為， 台灣非加入ＴＰＰ不可；民進黨也宣稱，蔡英文若執政， 推動加入ＴＰＰ可以「無縫接軌」。然而，台灣能否如願加入， 有重重難關要過。
占了全球經濟產值的卅八％，超過歐盟的廿五％， 成為世界最大的自由貿易區。而且，包括消費能力、技術領先程度、 吸引外資及對外投資能力等各方面，也都是世界第一。尤其， ＴＰＰ對於數位貿易、電子商務等所謂「新世代」貿易行為， 均訂出新的規範，可能逐漸成為未來世界貿易的新典範， 當然受到注目。
傳統自貿區是以消除邊境的關稅及投資障礙為主， 強調提升本國產品在國外的競爭力。ＴＰＰ則更進一步， 要消除會員國對於原料、資金、人才等生產要素移動的障礙及成本， 使得各國彼此間的供應鏈及合作關係更加緊密、也更有效率。因此， 在協定有很多深入各國內部的法規透明、公營事業改革要求， 也有中小企業與競爭力提升專章。如此， 不僅要有利於成員國間的貿易投資成長， 也有助於會員國對全球經濟競爭力的提升。
以原本就是亞太供應鏈一分子的台灣為例， 若無法搭上ＴＰＰ這班列車，不但出口至美、 日等主要市場的貿易可能受到影響， 更嚴重的是產業合作與供應關係將受到挑戰， 企業可能加速外移至ＴＰＰ國家， 而且經濟將因改革緩慢而導致競爭力衰退、外人投資持續落後， 而陷入困境。
再加上經濟整合的義務深入境內各層面，觸及如專利藥／ 學名藥保護、健保核價及資料傳輸等敏感議題（ 台灣還有美豬美牛問題！），談判起來當然非常困難。 僅在最傳統的關稅及投資限制消除的問題上，例如， 日本想要打入各國的汽車市場，美、 澳則要日本擴大開放稻米及豬牛肉； 越南要求美國給成衣零關稅待遇， 美國也期待越南對外人投資繼續鬆綁。十二國都有利益、也有衝擊， 在得失之間，需要有強烈的決心才能突破。這種決心的展現， 也是ＴＰＰ完成談判的亮點。
到公營事業的規範及投資開放等，明顯都是向美國、 日本等領先群國家傾斜；也因此，對於像馬來西亞、越南等國而言， 可能就要在短期內付出代價「強迫升級」， 以追求長期競爭力的強化。簡單地說，各國決定是否參加ＴＰＰ， 其決策考量永遠在尋求「整體、長期」的利益， 而不是個別議題的輸贏。同時，政府必須提出有效的對策， 協助那些為成就「整體利益」而可能受到衝擊的企業、 勞工及經濟弱勢族群。
問題是，台灣內部是否能達成上車的共識， 以及是否買得起這張車票，則仍未可知。事實上， 真正的挑戰只有一個：在有利有弊的情況下， 政府是否有能力說服台灣產業及社會， 為了追求ＴＰＰ帶來的長期利益，大家願意付出一定的代價和成本。
台灣卻遇上政治黑暗期。目前台灣的政治已全面進入選舉模式， 在選舉模式下，任何可能衝擊經濟弱勢族群以達成「整體利益」 的議題，沒有任何政黨膽敢觸碰。此外， 從明年一月十六日總統大選過後，到五二○新政府就職前， 政府又進入漫長的「看守期」；而看守內閣的特徵， 絕不在展現強烈政治決心，而是低調再低調。更何況，五二○ 新政府上任後，至少還需要好幾個月的磨合期，才能真正掌握情況。