Ma’s empty visa-waiver talk merely self-praise

By James Wang 王景弘  / 

Thu, Oct 18, 2012 - Page 8

President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) government is incompetent, with twisting the truth to suit itself, cheating the public and making itself look much better than it really is being the only things it is good at.

Recently, Ma has been bragging about how Taiwan’s inclusion by the US in its Visa-Waiver Program (VWP) is a sign of improvement in relations with the US, which is a total lie.

The US’ VWP is merely a simplification of a more complex set of procedures which allows nationals of certain nations that meet specific requirements to “apply for visa-free entry,” and does not mean automatic visa-free status. Saying that “applying for visa-free entry” is the same as “visa-free” is an oversimplification and misleading.

Being included in the VWP is of course good for business and tourism as it streamlines procedures, and saves time and money. However, Ma is really patting himself on the back too much by claiming this is an expression of the increasing closeness and improvement of Taiwan-US relations. Countries that do not receive this treatment include Israel, India, China, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Does Ma expect us to believe that these places do not have close ties to the US?

On the other hand, many tiny nations are part of the US’ VWP. Apart from the Baltic states, other small countries that are included in the US’ VWP include Monaco — which has a population of 30,000 and a total area the size of New York’s Central Park — as well as Liechtenstein, which is the same size as Washington, DC, and which has a population of just 36,000. The US does not even have to have embassies in small countries like these, so why is there any talk about how such an agreement signifies close relations between the US and the participating countries?

Ma has stressed how Taiwan is the only country out of the 37 countries under the VWP that does not have official diplomatic relations with the US. However, there are very few countries in the world like Taiwan that do not have official diplomatic relations with the US. However, Ma does not see this as something bad and instead chooses to lump Taiwan together with North Korea and Cuba, who also do not have any official relations with the US, and get all excited about Taiwan being included in the VWP.

By using new technology, the US has been able to look after its national border security while also attracting business and travel while simplifying their old visa system. The legal basis for Taiwan’s inclusion in the VWP is the Taiwan Relations Act that was enacted 33 years ago and stresses how Taiwan is to be treated as a country in a legal sense when the US deals with it.

China has not been included in the VWP and when it comes to Taiwan’s inclusion into the program, the thing on everyone’s minds is definitely something like: “Luckily, Taiwan does not belong to China.” However, the Ma administration is not willing to say this, nor will it ever have the guts to say so.

James Wang is a media commentator.

Translated by Drew Cameron