Wed, Jan 13, 2010 - Page 8 News List

The public’s right to ask questions about ECFA

By Wang Fu-jen 王輔仁

An old CHINESE saying has it that “he who started the problem should finish it.” In the case of the proposed economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA), this idea was all started by the current administration, so it is incumbent on the government to answer the important questions people have about the cross-strait pact.

What would an ECFA entail? What impact would it have on the public in the short, medium and long term, and what benefits and negative effects could we expect? The government should also answer public concerns about the potential political repercussions.

I used to head the international section of the Ministry of Finance Department of Customs Administration, and part of the job involved developing domestic anti-dumping duties and countervailing duties. When drafts were drawn up, we would solicit the opinions of everyone involved. Each and every opinion was valued, as it was a chance to get the final version right. We would collate all of the problems and potential solutions, making sure everything was covered and laid out clearly. We were the administration team, after all. This was expected of us.

As Yuan Hongbing’s (袁紅冰) book Taiwan Disaster (台灣大劫難) shows, the Chinese government, in an effort to keep its hold on power, is trying to justify totalitarianism and press ahead with dumbing down its population. It has tried to exploit the global financial crisis to support its contention that the writing is on the wall for the free, democratic world — and it has marked Taiwan as the first step in this process.

The initiation, maintenance, changes to and elimination of all of China’s economic, cultural, academic, social and religious exchanges with Taiwan are centrally directed and controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.

In order to achieve its political goals, Beijing will use every carrot and stick in the book, creating or destroying fortunes overnight as it sees necessary.

It may offer great temporary success to a select few, but in the end it will suck the marrow out of all Taiwanese — as can be seen from Hong Kong’s experience after it signed the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement with China in 2003, or the many cross-strait agreements that exist in name but cannot be implemented.

According to the principles of evidentiary law, the burden of proof concerning the value of the ECFA lies with the government. It is therefore inappropriate to switch the focus by promoting the agreement with the help of celebrity endorsers and their vague advertisements.

The government should instead put opinions from both sides of the debate, along with evidence and data, out in the open. Give the public the space it needs to examine each side. Then hold a referendum before deciding whether to sign the agreement.

Wang Fu-jen is a senior counselor at the Ministry of Finance.

TRANSLATED BY PAUL COOPER AND EDDY CHANG

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