The long, drawn-out battle between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on the cross-strait service trade agreement is still going on and has entered yet another phase. One of the most shocking things about the whole standoff is not the physical altercations between the two parties over the agreement, but rather that they have not moved forward after 16 public hearings and after the review of the pact was extended by more than three months.
The most shameful thing in all of this is that both sides are only interested in protecting their own interests and have been unwilling to answer any questions that might make them look bad. The KMT government announced that it set aside NT$98 billion (US$3.2 billion) to provide the service sector with trade assistance, but it has never responded to any of the challenges by the opposition party that this figure is exaggerated. Furthermore, the industries most under threat from the agreement still know nothing about the standards and procedures for gaining access to the subsidies. Ever since the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) was passed, the government has not submitted any assessment reports, nor has it protested to China over those parts of the agreement Beijing is blocking. It has also avoided answering any of the questions regarding the parts of the agreement that are unfairly in China’s favor.
The DPP has also shown itself to be equally skilled when it comes to focusing on unimportant issues while ignoring more serious concerns. The DPP’s biggest problem is that it has never offered an explanation of how Taiwan will be able join the the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership — also known as ASEAN Plus Three — if they are unable to first solve the issues surrounding the ECFA and the service trade agreement. DPP legislators only need to ask the Office of Trade Negotiations of the Ministry of Economic Affairs to understand the difficulties the nation faces over foreign trade talks. It has long been the case in Southeast Asian trade politics that ASEAN members are unwilling to offend China, but the DPP has deliberately ignored this.
Does the DPP really think it can solve Taiwan’s international isolation by blaming everything on Chinese oppression?
The DPP has also claimed that the highest priority should be given to joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), although the US has always had very strict demands on Taipei when it comes to trade liberalization, and the DPP has strongly resisted the importation of US pork. How will it ever be able to open talks on the TPP?
The US may not only want Taiwan to allow the importation of US pork, but also the majority of the US’ agricultural products. In addition, as soon as the nation joins the TPP, it will also have to open up to imports from Vietnam, South Korea and Japan, which will have an even greater impact on industry. How much credibility can a political party have when it is opposed to the importation of US pork, but then turns around and mouths off about giving priority to the TPP, which involves a much higher degree of liberalization?
The DPP views the service trade agreement as part of a Chinese plot to use economic means to force Taiwan into political submission. Given that it is so suspicious of the political motives behind cross-strait trade, how is it that they can allow DPP mayors and county commissioners to constantly travel to China in the hope of opening up direct flights, attracting Chinese tourists and Chinese investment? The DPP and its legislative caucus are strongly opposed to cross-strait trade, while DPP mayors and county commissioners openly welcome cross-strait trade. The double standards within the DPP are patently obvious and it has never attempted to justify its actions.
The standoff between the KMT and the DPP over the service trade agreement is a terrible state of affairs. The KMT has acted in a self-righteous manner, failed to communicate enough, showed that it is not prepared and has been unable to come up with any complementary measures. The DPP has shown that it is merely interested in politics, applies double standards and is incapable of coming up with any alternative strategies. With this lack of dialogue between the ruling and opposition parties, Taiwan will continue to regress, South Korea will leave it further behind and the nation’s marginalization will become increasingly severe.
Julian Kuo is a former Democratic Progressive Party legislator.
Translated by Drew Cameron