Thu, Apr 18, 2019 - Page 8 News List

The Liberty Times Editorial: Governing with common sense

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) is fond of making impromptu remarks in front of reporters. Sometimes, his remarks show a lack of understanding and are nonsensical, but at times they reveal a common sense in a plain and frank manner that only an amateur politician can do, which explains why he is so popular.

His statement in an interview earlier this month that the referendum on an import ban on food products from five Japanese prefectures was “feeble-minded” was a typical Ko statement.

Of all the referendums held on Nov. 24 last year, Ko said the one he disapproved of most was the import ban, because there was insufficient campaigning and information. He said that adopting different standards from the US and EU on radiation levels in food requires a convincing reason and, without that, it would be difficult for Taiwan to become integrated into the global community.

Politicians would not normally refer to a referendum as “feeble-minded” after the nation had voted, but Ko’s comments are just common sense: Taiwan and China are the only two nations that still maintain such a ban, and since even China is removing the ban, Taiwan is upholding stricter safety standards than the US and the EU.

The common sense approach also explains the negative effects of maintaining the ban. Taiwan is adopting the world’s strictest standard to deal with the issue unreasonably, while also expecting Japan to help it join the Tokyo-led Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Economic and trade negotiations require equal and mutual benefits, as well as give and take. It is plain common sense that hoping for Japan to lend a hand while unilaterally imposing super-strict regulations on Japanese products is unrealistic.

The way the government is sticking to the ban is bewildering. Friendly private-sector exchanges between Taiwan and Japan remain strong and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is the most Taiwan-friendly Japanese leader in recent years, but bilateral relations have failed to advance because of the food import issue, which is not beneficial to helping Taiwan break through the economic and trade marginalization. Whose fault is this?

Despite the good relations between Taiwan and the US, there also concerns. The US Trade Representative’s annual National Trade Estimate Report, released on March 29, said that Taiwan has not complied with international standards, scientific regulations or a bilateral protocol in dealing with the import of US pork and beef.

Unsolved for years, the long-standing issue of US pork and beef imports has hindered economic and trade progress. The US’ suspension of Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) talks for two consecutive years provides clear evidence.

It is common knowledge that US President Donald Trump rejects multilateral trade agreements in favor of bilateral free-trade agreements (FTAs).

Speaking at a Heritage Foundation seminar by video during her stopover in Hawaii on March 27, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said that a breakthrough in Taiwan-US free trade would greatly benefit Taiwan in negotiating with other nations and reduce its reliance on the Chinese market.

The question is how will Taiwan advance FTA talks when it is not even able to take practical action to persuade the US to resume lower-tier TIFA talks.

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