When Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) went to Taichung County to visit towel producers last Tuesday, he discussed the idea of tightening testing standards to limit imports of Chinese towels, much as Japan once raised its vehicle emission standards to control US imports. Imports would be limited because some Chinese towels would not pass the test.
Ma also said, however, that the KMT was in favor of a "cross-strait common market" as part of the nation's economic strategy.
This would be taking a customs union one step further, with goods, labor, capital and services flowing freely between the two member states. Towels would be one of those goods flowing back and forth, with no restrictions.
Ma's proposal of raising testing standards is a form of trade protectionism mostly employed by developed nations. It is completely at odds with his proposal to liberalize trade and facilitate the flow of goods through a common market.
So what we have now is Ma contradicting himself. After calling for a "cross-strait common market" that would allow Chinese towels to be imported freely, he now wants the government to prevent Chinese towels from being dumped on the local market.
This flip-flopping economic policy reveals two possibilities: First, his talk of preventing the dumping of Chinese towels is a short-term political move; Second, when his camp proposed a "cross-strait common market," it had not thoroughly considered the needs of Taiwan's economic development and was rashly proposed.
Since the common market proposal was made, Ma's camp has had to go back and amend its ideas over and over again. For example, it says it wants restrictions on Chinese labor working in Taiwan. And now Ma's talk about opposing Chinese towel dumping has once more highlighted the contradictions in the economic strategy he advocates.
If Ma doesn't agree to let Chinese labor come to Taiwan unrestricted and doesn't agree to let Chinese towels be dumped in Taiwan, then perhaps we should request that he simply rescind his support for the establishment of a "cross-strait common market."
Ma should reconsider the logic and consistency of his economic strategy from the perspective of the nation's economic development.
Lu Jiun-wei is a doctoral student at National Taiwan University's department of political science.
Translated by Marc Langer