Thu, Apr 01, 2010 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL : Too many doubts remain about ECFA

It’s an irony for Chinese negotiators who took part in the second round of economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) negotiations in Taoyuan County yesterday to say from a resort in Dasi that they remain open-minded about the trade pact and would do whatever they can to minimize any potential negative impact on the local economy.

Dasi is home to dictator Chiang Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) mausoleum, which to this day remains off-limits to Chinese tour groups, despite its popularity and the fact that tourism authorities in Beijing have never formally restricted the visits.

If you talk in private to Taiwanese travel agencies that arrange local trips for Chinese tourists, they will confirm that it is an unwritten rule that no travel agency will put anything related to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) old-time rival on the tour groups’ itineraries.

Only individual tourists who come from a third country and are not escorted by Chinese tour guides can visit the mausoleum.

That shows China isn’t as open-minded and democratic as it would like to imply.

Although refusing to pay tribute to a former dictator might be construed as honorable under other circumstances, it is no less than a joke for the CCP, which is just as authoritarian as Chiang’s regime was, to have such a ban — a clear case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Taiwanese tour operators will also tell you that Beijing authorities prohibit their outbound tourists from speaking freely to the media unless their comments are pre-approved.

This is just one small example of how China says one thing, but means another. Nobody should be surprised when Chinese officials hide their true colors.

This holds especially true when one considers the comments made yesterday by Tang Wei (唐煒), director of the Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Department under China’s Ministry of Commerce, who chaired the first round of talks on Jan. 26 in Beijing and co-chaired yesterday’s round of talks in Dasi.

Tang, in his opening address, heaped praise on the ECFA, saying that Chinese leaders aim to facilitate such a “good thing.”

Then he admitted that the trade pact would not be a panacea that will boost the local economy, although he said it was not a “horrifying monster” that will destroy Taiwan’s economy. In the afternoon, he admitted that “it is too difficult to tend to every aspect of the deal as the clock is ticking.”

Without going into details, what Tang said raised nothing but more doubts about the deal.

Is an ECFA a good thing or not? Good for whom?

Why are both sides in such a hurry to ink the deal when they say the deal is neither sweet nor bitter? Why not spend more time and tend to every detail of the deal before signing it, which would be in the interest of both sides?

No answers, of course, will be offered to these questions for the time being.

But let’s hope the upcoming debate or “dialogue” between President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) will shed some light on the matter.

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