President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is at it again, issuing an unverified claim just to scare people into supporting his policy.
As next week’s legislative session approaches, Ma has recently stepped up his calls for the Legislative Yuan to pass the cross-strait service trade agreement.
Turning his latest push up a notch, the president said earlier this week that “any delay will lead to doubts in the international community over Taiwan’s determination to join the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership [TPP].”
While it is comforting to see Ma note the importance of the nation joining the TPP to avoid economic marginalization and having Taiwan’s competitiveness undermined, it is still wrong for the president to mislead the public by linking the cross-strait service trade agreement with Taiwan’s efforts to join regional trade blocs.
The cross-strait trade agreement is not related to Taiwan’s bid to join the TPP or any other regional trade bloc. By connecting the two and saying that Taiwan would lose its eligibility for the latter if it does not pass the former, the president is essentially threatening lawmakers and Taiwanese into blindly endorsing his China policy.
The cross-strait service pact, signed without public knowledge of its contents in June last year by Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation and China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, remains stalled in the legislature for valid reasons.
Aside from the opaque way in which it was signed — which alone has brewed controversy — many have also expressed concerns over the scale of its potential negative impacts on various local sectors of the service industry and other negative repercussions on business opportunities in Taiwan. For example, some concerned industries have pointed out that the pact is not reciprocal: Taiwan would be forced to open almost all of its retail and wholesale sectors to Chinese investment, with Beijing not offering the same rights for Taiwanese investors and businesses.
As for Ma and his administration’s repeated rhetoric emphasizing the importance of Taiwan’s participation in the TPP and their determination to pursue trade liberalization, a recent poll suggested Taiwanese feel otherwise.
According to a survey conducted by Cathay Financial Holding Co that was released on Wednesday, as much as 76 percent of Taiwanese do not know what the TPP is and just 32 percent of respondents think the TPP would bring positive effects to Taiwan’s economy.
If joining the trade bloc is as important to the nation — and Ma’s administration — as the government repeatedly claims, why has there been a failure to inform Taiwanese about the TPP and what it means?
Why is it that instead people hear the president blabbing about the controversial cross-strait service pact day in and day out?
If Ma is truly determined and serious about Taiwan’s TPP bid, he needs to demonstrate his sincerity by keeping Taiwanese more informed about the proposed regional trade bloc, instead of using it as a pretense to force the legislature’s passage of the cross-strait trade pact and as a bargaining chip with Beijing toward attaining his dream of meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平).