United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
November 27, 2015
Executive Summary: The just concluded negotiations on the "Cross-Strait Merchandise Trade Agreement” (MTA) failed to result in an agreement. If we want an agreement by the end of the year, the 13th round of negotiations must be convened with one month. After next year's general election, the cross-Strait political situation will be unpredictable. We hope the two sides realize that the window of opportunity is closing. If if MTA negotiations cannot be completed this year, we may be forced to return to square one.
Full Text Below:
The just concluded negotiations on the "Cross-Strait Merchandise Trade Agreement” (MTA) failed to result in an agreement. If we want an agreement by the end of the year, the 13th round of negotiations must be convened with one month. After next year's general election, the cross-Strait political situation will be unpredictable. We hope the two sides realize that the window of opportunity is closing. If if MTA negotiations cannot be completed this year, we may be forced to return to square one.
MTA negotiations are unique in two respects. One. Rapid progress. According to official press releases, agreement has already been reached on most cross-Strait trade liberalization issues. Only a few difficult issues still need to be resolved. According to negotiators, the "landing zone" is already in sight. Two. Protests continue, but the MTA has yet to become an election issue. What's even more interesting, DPP representatives act as if accelerated MTA negotiations are none of their concern. Their optimistic yet ambivalent attitude has provoked dissatisfaction among civic groups.
The public on Taiwan holds different views on the meaning and impact of the MTA. The PRC-ROK FTA is about to take effect. Talks on the PRC-Japan-ROK FTA are progressing rapidly. The threat to Taiwan industry is increasing. They are less and less competitive. The MTA is not a panacea. But it at least gives domestic industry a fighting chance. The evidence is incontrovertible. Even the DPP, which has long viewed cross-Strait economic dependence with suspicion, now says it “looks forward to its completion”.
Opponents insist that the MTA will increase Taiwan's dependence on the Mainland, and that allowing in Mainland merchandise will sacrifice the interests of local farmers and vulnerable industries. Economically speaking, these allegations are rooted in prejudice. If we do not sign the MTA, does that mean Taiwan industries will no longer be doing business with Mainland China? If we do not sign the MTA, these same industries may be forced to leave Taiwan, to invest and set up factories on the Mainland in order to compete against Japan and South Korea. Merchandise manufactured on the Mainland will not be subject to Japanese and South Korean tariffs. Would this not make Taiwan even more dependent on the Mainland? Would this not hollow out Taiwan even more?
The MTA would allow in more than a thousand items of merchandise to Taiwan. Opponents have grossly distorted the pros and cons. In fact, so-called "opening" means that Mainland merchandise must comply with other WTO member nations' import restrictions. In other words, the ROC has already been importing such items from other nations or regions for at least a decade. Only the Mainland was excluded. Moreover, tariffs on imports from the Mainland will not be reduced one iota.
Recently red bean paste has been cited as an example. Mainland China's tariffs, according to WTO requirements, may amount to 22 dollars per kilogram. But a "special defense mechanism" also applies. That is, once a nation's imports reach a predetermined threshold, one may raise tariffs or even ban imports. If MTA opening accords with WTO conditions, opening to Mainland merchandise does not mean they will enter unhindered. Besides, Mainland products may be cheap, but their quality cannot compare with local Taiwan products.
If we unburden ourselves of fear or bigotry, we see that swiftly signing the MTA is actually to our benefit. Both the blue camp and green camp want an agreement. The only question remaining is when? An agreement this year is much better than one next year.
The general election in January is fast approaching. If the caretaker government conducts negotiations after the election, it will provoke controversy. Therefore everything will be dragged out to May 20th, when the new government takes office. A change in ruling parties next year appears likely. But DPP cross-Strait policy remains elusive in name and vague in concept. How will Beijing react? No one knows. How will post-election politics on Taiwan affect cross-Strait relations? Even the greatest oracle will have trouble predicting. This will of course affect the progress of the MTA. The two sides are currently willing to sign. The political goodwill generated by the Ma Xi summit lingers. The two sides should complete bilateral negotiations in one fell swoop. This will benefit both Taiwan and the Mainland. A project left half-finished will be difficult to complete, and can only lead to regret.
The issues that haunt the MTA are few in number, but great in difficulty. For example, we resolutely refuse to allow in 707 agricultural products. The Mainland, on the other hand, argues that everything should be covered by normal liberalization. The two sides appear deadlocked on the meaning of "Made in Taiwan", as applied to machine tools or automobiles. Viewed from the perspective of industrial interests and influence, both sides have reasons for their positions. But the MTA will greatly benefit both sides. Over the past six years, ECFA has been subject to countless twists and turns. As long as leaders on the two sides can change their minds, disputes such as these need not obstruct overall progress.
只剩下個月第十三回合談判這個機會。明年大選過後， 兩岸政治情勢非常可能出現許多新變數。 我們希望兩岸都必須有機會之窗稍縱即逝的體認， 瞭解若今年無法完成貨貿協商，很可能就要歸零重來的挑戰， 盡力促成。
根據相關官員對外說明的資料看， 兩岸對於絕大部分的自由化議題都已經取得共識， 只剩些許難度很高的問題有待解決。套句談判術語，就是「著陸區」 （landing zone）已經在眼前了。第二，儘管抗議聲依舊不斷， 但貨貿並未成為這次選舉的熱議話題。更耐人尋味的是， 民進黨對貨貿加速協商表面一副事不關己、 卻又帶幾分樂觀其成的曖昧態度，也引起民間團體的不滿。
隨著《中韓ＦＴＡ》（自貿協定）即將生效，《中日韓ＦＴＡ》 進度又不斷加速，我國業者受到的威脅感越來越強烈， 產業競爭空間也被壓得越來越小。《貨貿協議》當然不是萬靈丹， 但至少能給國內業者多一點對抗和抵擋的武器；這項功能證據鑿鑿， 很難否認或抹殺。也因此， 連一向對兩岸經濟依賴問題抱持高度戒心的民進黨，都很難不「 樂觀其成」。
並將因為開放陸貨而犧牲農民及弱勢產業的權益。從經濟面來看， 這些說法，都可能失之偏頗。請問：難道不簽貨貿協議， 業者就從此不再跟中國做生意？反過來說，如果沒有兩岸貨貿協議， 業者可能將被迫選擇離開台灣轉赴大陸投資設廠，藉此對抗日、 韓的競爭（因為在當地生產無須付關稅）。如此一來， 豈不是更加深依賴，而台灣更空洞化？
也受到反對者過度扭曲。事實上，所謂「開放」， 是指讓大陸貨品得以「比照其他ＷＴＯ成員國」的條件進口至台灣。 換句話說，這些貨品，我國早已對全球其他國家開放至少十餘年， 只是當年排除了大陸；何況，陸貨進口時該向我繳交的關稅， 一毛也沒減少。
我國在ＷＴＯ的關稅稅率高達每公斤廿二元，而且還保留實施「 特別防衛機制」的權利。亦即，一旦進口量達到我國預設的門檻時， 就可以直接提高關稅，甚至禁止進口。假設《貨貿協議》 是按照ＷＴＯ的條件開放， 則開放陸貨並不代表它可以如入無人之境般長驅直入。更何況， 大陸製品就算價格便宜，但其品質根本無法與台灣本地製品相比。
看來對我方更有利。加上藍綠兩黨都支持完成談判， 下一個問題便是：要在何時完成最好？我們認為，今年完成談判， 其價值明顯大於明年。
勢必會招致諸多爭議；因此，一切就要被拖到五二○ 新政府上任再說。尤其，目前看來明年政黨輪替的機率極高， 但民進黨的兩岸政策，目前卻只有縹緲的標題和模糊的概念； 而且北京到時會如何反應，仍是高深莫測。因此， 台灣選後新局對兩岸關係的影響，可能最厲害的「國師」 都很難算出，這必將影響貨貿協議的進度。趁著現在兩岸都有意願， 「馬習會」後雙方的政治善意猶在，雙邊一鼓作氣完成協商， 才是對台灣和兩岸的未來最有利的作法。如果留下一個半成品， 或者殘壘，最後無以為繼，將徒呼負負。
七農產品，我方堅持不開放，而大陸則主張應該納入正常化範圍。 又如，在涉及何謂「台灣製造」的工具機或汽車的原產地規則上， 雙方似乎也仍僵持不下。若只看產業利益及影響， 兩岸都有其堅持的理由； 但若由完成貨貿協議對台灣及對兩岸的意義， 以及為這六年來波折不斷的ＥＣＦＡ譜下最終曲的高度來看， 只要兩岸領導人一個轉念，這些爭執都不該是阻礙大局的因素。