The Ministry of Economic Affairs is holding a series of seminars on the cross-strait service trade agreement at some universities nationwide to explain the government’s stance on the pact. On Tuesday last week, it held the second seminar at National Taipei University.
At the seminar, Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Woody Duh (杜紫軍) said that the signing of the service trade agreement is expected to bring a production value of NT$12 billion to Taiwanese enterprises. Hearing this number, students said that if that is the case, why then did the government increase business stimulus funds from NT$95 billion to NT$98.2 billion after the agreement was signed? This addition of NT$3.2 billion to the funds appears to be a clear admission that the pact will bring more shortcomings than advantages.
Let’s put aside all the non-economic factors for now. What Taiwanese are trying to find out is — since the ministry is claiming that the agreement will result in a production value increase of NT$12 billion — how long it will take to generate this production value: a day, a year or an entire lifetime? Judging from Duh’s answer, this seems to be the total additional production value resulting from the trade pact for at least the years between 2010 and 2019. The basis for this reasoning is that the allotted funds are intended to aid the industries that will suffer a negative impact from the agreement during this decade-long period.
This leads to the question of why the agreement will create an industrial production value of just NT$12 billion over 10 years? The government should be giving serious consideration to what assistance industry needs today. What has it done to help businesses push for industrial transformation? Is it really worth signing a highly controversial service trade agreement that is only expected to create a production value of a mere NT$1.2 billion yearly over the 10-year period?
If the government suspends the industrial water supply for just a single day, the financial losses to the high-tech industry would exceed NT$1.2 billion.
The problem is either that the government is incompetent or it is a result of the industries’ lack of competitiveness.
Surprisingly, the ministry is trying to justify the agreement by claiming that it will bring an industrial production value of NT$12 billion and is simultaneously trying to use this insignificant potential payout to confuse student protesters.
It is highly questionable whether the government has a complete grasp of all the advantages and disadvantages that the pact might bring — issues that will affect not only the economy, but also many other aspects of society — and so it should really stop questioning whether those who are opposed to the agreement truly understand it.
Then again, the government has never wanted us to understand the agreement in the first place.
Wu Pei-ing is a professor in National Taiwan University’s agricultural economics department.
Translated by Eddy Chang