Ever since the controversy-plagued Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) was signed in China last week, the pan-blue media have highlighted the need for bipartisanship and speed in reviewing the trade pact at the legislature.
In a Sunday editorial, the Chinese-language China Times wrote that while the ECFA needs to be screened by the legislature, “we would hate to see the trade pact delayed endlessly and Taiwan’s crucial chance of a comeback nixed because of partisan struggle.”
There are several problems with this statement. For one, it says that the legislature should “screen” the ECFA, a term so vague as to be meaningless. It includes no call for “careful” or “thorough” screening. Also, Taiwan’s economic comeback in the wake of the global recession began in the final quarter of last year and has proceeded well — without the ECFA. As such, partisan struggle over the trade agreement will not undermine the recovery.
It is particlarly ironic for the pan-blue media to be warning us about the pitfalls of partisanship when it comes to the ECFA because they remained unusually quiet when the pan-blue-dominated legislature prevented the administration of then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) from purchasing weapons approved for sale by Washington in 2001, at a time when the Chinese military budget was growing at a double-digit pace.
While it may be fair to characterize the ECFA as an unprecedented development in relations across the Taiwan Strait (for better or worse), the procurement of weapons to ensure that the nation can defend itself was no less important. Not only did those years prove detrimental to the development of the Taiwanese military as a viable deterrent against Chinese aggression, they also tarnished the nation’s image with the US, its sole supplier of advanced weapons, sparking unfair accusations that the DPP administration was not serious about defending Taiwan.
Partisan politics in the pan-blue-controlled legislature also resulted in the inability of the executive under Chen to implement a series of necessary reforms, which in many cases brought national development to a standstill. Did pan-blue media bemoan partisan politics back then? No.
Those same media also seem to believe that the DPP is determined, out of sheer malice, to delay “review” of the ECFA.
“As long as the ECFA is deferred for a single day, the DPP will feel triumphant for a day and the interests of the public will be impaired for one more day,” the China Times wrote, adding that “destructive boycotting does not constitute effective supervision.”
One might add that a pan-blue-dominated legislature, rubber-stamping a deal shrouded in secrecy that risks undermining the sovereignty of the nation isn’t effective supervision either.
What the DPP seeks is an article-by-article review of the deal, which is the only way to ensure that the ECFA is, as the China Times alleges, a “well-designed” trade pact. Anything less, anything that continues to keep the majority of the population in the dark, is unacceptable and does not deserve public support.
We’ve reached a point that transcends partisan politics. The ECFA touches on questions of national survival and if it is mismanaged and not scrutinized as an agreement of this unprecedented scope should be, and if calls for a referendum on the matter continue to be shot down by the executive, then yes, a boycott at the legislature may be necessary.