A few days ago, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) spokesman Yang Wei-chung (楊偉中) said that since the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) agrees that Taiwan should join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) as soon as possible, they should stop blocking the cross-strait service trade agreement.
Yang also said that the DPP would be contradicting itself if it continues to oppose the agreement, while supporting entry into the TPP, an agreement of a higher level and wider scope than the service trade agreement.
However, a close look at Yang’s comments shows that the KMT still does not really understand why Taiwanese have doubts about the service trade agreement and that the KMT does not know what sort of trade liberalization Taiwanese want, which is disappointing.
The KMT and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are more responsible than anyone for the fact that most Taiwanese do not support the service trade agreement.
First, regardless of whether we look at the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) or the dozen or so other agreements signed between Taiwan and China prior to that, there was a big difference between what was said before and what was done after they were signed. Gains and losses are unavoidable in international negotiations, but how will the government be able to convince the public of an agreement’s virtues if the gains are always exaggerated while the losses always ignored?
Second, over the past few years, the pace at which China has been trying to spur unification and influence politics here using economic means has accelerated considerably because of the tacit approval of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his administration, which has helped China to make things worse.
Apart from the KMT trying to replace the so-called “1992 consensus,” which it knew the DPP would never accept, with a “one China” framework, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) said in October last year that cross-strait political problems must not be passed down from generation to generation.
In other words, as Taiwan becomes more and more reliant on China in terms of trade, there is a high likelihood that we will lose even more say in cross-strait negotiations and that the KMT will increasingly lean toward China. This is another reason why Taiwanese are unwilling to support the service trade agreement.
Regardless of whether it is the TPP or the RCEP, as long as Taiwan is able to join under fair and equal conditions, and as long as the government has well-thought-out plans in place and provides the necessary assistance to affected industries, higher-level agreements will help transform and upgrade production modes in Taiwan.
Agreements with a broader scope will help balance out and remove some of China’s influence on Taiwan’s economy and society while increasing the nation’s autonomy and giving it more leeway to make policy decisions.
These are two key components that Taiwan desperately needs to examine and the two things that the service trade agreement cannot provide.
If the KMT continues to try to equate regional economic integration with the service trade agreement, it will not only be unhelpful to forging domestic consensus on the issue, but will allow the KMT to find excuses for possible CCP interference.
If the time needed to enter into either the TPP or the RCEP is further extended, Taiwan will be further isolating itself.