The Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) has failed to bring benefits to the people of Taiwan, despite assertions by President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration that it would, and Ma has “mishandled” and “misjudged” the cross-strait negotiations for the pact, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said yesterday.
Ma has failed to deliver on at least eight of his pledges related to the agreement, the DPP said in its review of the pact, which was hailed as a landmark deal by most analysts, on the eve of the third anniversary of its signing at a news conference yesterday.
“However, no one has been held responsible for a grave mistake that has not helped Taiwan’s economy, but instead jeopardized people’s livelihoods,” DPP Policy Research Committee executive director Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said.
Ma said prior to its signing that the deal would increase Taiwan’s chances to sign free-trade agreements with other trade partners and bring in more foreign investment — thus creating more jobs and savings of at least NT$300 billion (US$10 billion) on tariffs for Taiwan-made products.
In an attempt to ease people’s anxiety, the president also pledged that he would never allow more Chinese agricultural product imports and said the pact would facilitate the industrial upgrade of Taiwan and shorten the wealth gap.
Taiwan’s foreign direct investments, GDP, unemployment rate and most vital economic indicators have not gone up, but have fallen after the deal took effect, Wu said, adding that Taiwan’s economy has gotten so bad that Washington is considering offering substantial assistance to revive it.
“The resumption of talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) in April was a sign that Washington tried to maintain a close economic relationship. It could also assist Taiwan in joining multilateral international trade organizations,” Wu said.
The order and progression of Taiwan’s negotiations with China over the ECFA were unorthodox, DPP Department of China Affairs director Honigmann Hong (洪財隆) said, because most countries would begin with a service in goods agreement, which is easier for negotiators to conclude, while a service trade agreement is usually the last negotiation item because it involves the free flow of investment and personnel.
Due to the nature of the ECFA — a rough framework agreement with little substantial content that was hastily signed without disclosing its negotiation plan and liberalization timetable — Taiwan and China have not yet completed the notification process to the WTO, which could pose threats to Taiwan if trade disputes arise, because it would not be protected by the WTO’s trade settlement mechanism.
“Misjudgement would be the term to describe the Ma administration’s mistakes in handling negotiations for the ECFA, as well as the recent service trade agreement,” Hong said, adding that Ma had committed a cardinal mistake in trade negotiations by being hasty.
“The previous 18 agreements across the Strait came easily for Ma and perhaps deceived him into false confidence, which made him underestimate the possible backlash from the people,” Hong said.