Month: December 2009

Strait talking | The Economist

RELATIONS between Taiwan and China may be better than at any time since Nationalist forces routed in China’s civil war fled for Taiwan in 1949. But not everyone is cheering. Chen Yunlin, China’s most senior Taiwan negotiator, visited Taichung in central Taiwan in December to sign three technical accords (covering co-operation on fishing, industrial standards and the quarantine of agricultural products). But public support in Taiwan for President Ma Ying-jeou’s China-friendly policies seems to be eroding.

The opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) claimed 100,000 people had joined its protest rally on December 20th. (The police estimated 30,000.) They condemned the pact the government wants to sign with China, formally known as the Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement, or ECFA, saying it would cause thousands of job losses and lead to an influx of cheap Chinese goods. Mr Chen was dogged by protesters, albeit in far smaller numbers than on his first visit in November 2008. In the worst scuffle, a policeman was badly hurt and six people detained.

Mr Chen and his Taiwanese counterpart, Chiang Pin-kun, agreed they would negotiate ECFA at a summit in China in the first half of 2010. Mr Ma hopes it will be signed then, but Chinese negotiators would not promise this.

ECFA is the cornerstone of Mr Ma’s cross-strait policies but he has provided scant details. It is born out of his fear that Taiwan, already ravaged by the financial crisis, will be marginalised as a free-trade pact between China and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) takes effect this January. China puts pressure on other countries not to sign free-trade agreements with Taiwan. Mr Ma hopes that will change once Taiwan and China have their agreement, although there are no guarantees. Singapore is expected to be first.

Even disregarding other markets, however, China’s are attractive enough. Taiwan’s exports face tariffs ranging from 5% to 15% in China….


Government answerable to the youth about ECFA

On Dec. 14, student associations from National Taiwan University (NTU), National Taiwan Normal University and National Taiwan University of Science and Technology invited Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) to attend a forum at NTU this weekend to explain government policy on the proposed cross-strait economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA).

The ECFA proposal is a major national policy, but it has been drawn up in an undemocratic way. The public has not been informed about the content of the policy because the government has failed to communicate adequately. It will affect the lives of Taiwanese, but they have had no chance to discuss it, still less make decisions.

The forum is being organized by the NTU Student Association under the title “ECFA — Boon or Bust for College Students?” Organizers invited government officials, academics and civic groups. Discussion workshops will be held for young citizens to inquire deeper into the issues. When the forum concludes tomorrow, participants will draw up a consensus report in which all participants will decide whether they agree to signing an ECFA.

All important policies should be formed and decided through a democratic process, which is why this forum has been organized in the spirit of deliberative democracy. Hopefully the government will take a similar attitude when deciding on policies, in accordance with democratic principles.

As chief of the country’s executive team, Wu should be answerable not just to the legislature, which represents the public, but to the public as a whole. All the more so given that the ECFA proposal is a policy with far-reaching implications. Consequently, the premier is duty-bound to give the public a proper and thorough explanation. He should not pass this responsibility on to the Ministry of Finance alone on the grounds that “they are the experts.”

If even the premier…


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