Sun, Nov 25, 2007 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: A market on whose terms?

Much has been made over the past few months of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) economic policies since he chose Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) as his running mate for next year's election and since completing his "long stay" in rural Taiwan. In so doing, Ma has shifted the debate from the independence-unification issue to the economy.

The two candidates, however, have been relatively quiet over the past month about Siew's "cross-strait common market," a policy proposal that he has been working on for the past few years and which is based on the EU common market.

When it was first implemented, the goal of the EU common market, more formally known as the European Economic Union, was to promote economic integration, leading to the eventual political union of the member nations, based on democratic principles.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has denounced Siew's policy, saying that it would be tantamount to creating a "one-China market," which would lead to unification. Leaving aside the outdated pan-Chinese propaganda that Siew's economic policy seems to promote, he seems to think that he can negotiate a cross-strait market without political influences. It is especially naive, in the context of cross-strait relations, to believe that this is possible.

There is no evidence over the past decade to suggest that China is willing to negotiate with Taiwan unless it accepts the "one China" principle. In other words, for China, there will be no negotiation on Taiwan's terms.

Nation-states negotiate on terms that are in the best interests of their citizens. At least democratic societies do. Negotiating a common market with China might be viable if it were not ruled by a communist dictatorship with an arbitrary legal system and a questionable human rights record. But this isn't so and the fact that the majority of the international community continues to toe Beijing's line suggests that they too are playing the game on China's terms.

From a domestic perspective, this makes a cross-strait common market ridiculous. Using the EU common market as an example, if one state in the Union disputes the trade practices of another state, they can expect reasonable arbitration to resolve the problem because the mechanism has a number of checks and balances that are transparent and open to all members. Can the same be expected if Taiwan has a trade dispute with China? Who is going to arbitrate on Taiwan's behalf? Lien Chan (連戰)?

Ma said recently on his trip to Japan that Taiwan could have already broadened its international space if it had gone along with Lien's so-called five-point plan for cross-strait peace. Again, this is laughable and naive in the context of the 1,000 missiles pointed at Taiwan.

It isn't too difficult to see that on important issues, pandering to China across the international community works against Taiwan's interests. The cross-strait common market, or any other measure that is agreed upon by both sides, is obviously going to favor China, which will not allow Taiwan to bargain on its own terms.

Taiwan's sovereignty continues to be the greatest issue affecting the nation's ability to negotiate and exist in the global community. The government has to move the dialogue back in this direction for it to come out on top in next year's presidential election.

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