Friday, April 3, 2009

ECFA, A Chance for a Brighter Future

ECFA, A Chance for a Brighter Future
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 3, 2009

After prolonged controversy, the Ministry of Economic Affairs has finally invited representatives from industry and academia to discuss the merits of signing ECFA. Opinion remains divided over the pros and cons of ECFA. But the parties have at least agreed to meet face-to-face. This dialogue should continue, as it will help clarify the relevant issues. Only then can we avoid the ideological confrontation that has hijacked substantive discussion of CECA and ECFA for the past several months.

Dialog has gradually made clear whether we should sign ECFA. Proponents and opponents alike are clearly concerned about the consequences of signing or not signing. Those who advocate signing as soon as possible feel that if we fail to seize the moment, those industries on Taiwan that are still competitive may face high tariffs and the loss of their competitive advantage. They will be forced to relocate in toto, leading to a decline in our GDP. Those who oppose signing worry that given lingering cross-Strait hostility, the hasty signing of ECFA will mean the loss of a bargaining chip. In the absence of tariff protection, less competitive small and medium enterprises may suffer from the dumping of cheap goods by the mainland.

Comparing these two very different positions brings us back to the fundamental question, should ECFA be seen as a threat, or an opportunity? Should the ROC aggressively face this challenge? Or simply bar the doors, curl up in a ball, and do nothing?

If we are willing only to see the signing of ECFA as a threat, then the conclusion is simple. We can refuse to discuss anything. We can lock ourselves behind closed doors and repeat to ourselves that we are masters in our own home. Why should we care about changes in the outside world? Whenever cross-Strait disputes arise, we need only invoke the issue of "sovereignty," of "missiles," and so on. We needn't discuss the issue at all. Approaching problems from such a mindset is easy. Essentially one need do nothing. Those in charge need only issue an impromptu provocation against the other side. If anyone criticizes them, they can accuse critics of "insufficient patriotism toward Taiwan." They can even paint them red. Isn't this what the ruling Democratic Progressive Party did during its eight years in office? The Democratic Progressive Party leadership relentlessly points the finger at the Ma administration. But the Ma administration's cross-Strait policy liberalization measures were formulated during the DPP's eight years in office. The measures were correctly formulated. So why weren't they implemented? The two sides have finally arrived at a promising consensus. Whether to sign ECFA is still under discussion. Yet the alarmists are already inciting fear. They even hope to transform that fear into some form of political mobilization. They hope to obliterate or distort the substance of the issue.

If, one the other hand, we are willing to see the bilateral signing of ECFA as an opportunity, then our work is cut out for us. For example, many internationally competitive industries must alter their regional strategies before the ASEAN Plus One Free Trade Area is officially established. They must position themselves properly before the new international division of labor takes shape. Industries that may be affected must respond or restructure themselves as soon as possible. They may face competition from cheaper goods. But at least they ought to have confidence in the "Made in Taiwan" label! After all, over the next few years an entirely new scenario will prevail. Only by seeing changes as an opportunity, can one deal with them wisely. Only then can one take decisive action, choose the right path, and discover one's proper role. One must not cower in fright behind closed doors, hurl wild accusations, or incite conflict.

Looking back over the past half century, when has the ROC's situation been better? When have the risks the ROC faces been fewer? Over the many winters that have gone by, what has the ROC had to be afraid of? Really? Haven't we who live on Taiwan characterized ourselves as adept at seizing opportunities amidst danger, at creating miracles in the face of adversity? In future consultations with the other side over ECFA, we will of course consider all sorts of risks. We will of course consider prudent responses to a wide range of variables. But we should have confidence in ourselves. We should seize opportunities that arise in a timely manner. We should take appropriate action to deal with them. We must not be afraid of taking even the first step, poor-mouthing our prospects all the way, frightening ourselves to death!

中國時報  2009.04.03
社論-險中掌握生機 才能締造未來







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