Mon, Jul 01, 2002 - Page 3 News List

New air accord a result of compromise, analysts say

CROSS-STRAIT TIES Despite their stark political differences, Taipei and Beijing both managed to come out of negotiations satisfied they had accomplished their goals

By Lin Miao-Jung  /  STAFF REPORTER

The new Taiwan-Hong Kong air accord is a compromise between Taiwan and Beijing that has produced a possible model for future cross-strait talks, analysts said yesterday.

Hsieh Fu-yuan (謝福沅), the former director of the Straits Exchange Foundation's (SEF, 海基會) department of legal services and an experienced negotiator with China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS, 海協會), told the Taipei Times yesterday that, considering the result of the negotiations for the new pact, "Neither Taiwan nor Beijing won everything or lost everything."

The talks had become bogged down in the opposing viewpoints of Beijing and Taipei.

China wanted to regard the aviation talks as an "internal affair of the state" because it regards Taiwan as part of its territory. Taiwan, wanting to ensure its independent sovereignty, insisted the talks be conducted on a government-to-government basis.

Despite the differences, the Taiwan-Hong Kong route is important to both sides and there was pressure on both sides to reach a deal.

According to Jan Jyh-horng (詹志宏), director of the department of research and planning under the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) and a negotiator in the aviation talks, Taiwan's government had four officials at the negotiating table "to ensure that the government took the lead during the talks."

However, Jan said, "Taiwan added a representative from the private sector because Hong Kong asked it to do so."

Nevertheless, during the four rounds of negotiations, "The representative from the private sector was not allowed to offer opinions unless officials told him to do so," a high-ranking official from the MAC said.

Since Beijing did not oppose the composition of Taiwan's delegation, many officials from the MAC agreed that the "Taiwan-Hong Kong air-pact negotiations model" left room for both Taiwan and Beijing to interpret the matter in their own ways.

"Now China can say the talks were an internal affair of a state, while Taiwan can claim they're government-to-government talks," Hsieh said. "The compromise made signing the new pact possible."

Not only did Taiwan and Beijing compromise on the composition of the delegations, but they both had to give ground on the format of the agreements.

An MAC official who wished to stay anonymous said that Taiwan had originally wanted to follow the regular format of international flight agreements, "but the Hong Kong side opposed the idea and wanted a commercial agreement instead."

The final agreement thus differed slightly from the regular international format but kept international flight regulations in the agreements.

"We put international regulations into the agreements, such as regulations on customs, flight examination procedures ? it could not be a domestic flight agreement as China said," the official said.

Taiwan could also claim success over the name of the agreement.

The original pact, signed in 1996, was "the commercial agreement among four airline companies." The new agreement, however, is "the air transportation agreement between Taiwan and Hong Kong."

"The flexibility that both sides have is a key factor that made the new pact possible," Hsieh said. But he also warned that in the future, if Beijing is not willing to compromise, "it will be a serious obstacle for Taiwan."

MAC Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said after the agreement was reached on Saturday that the negotiation model for the Taiwan-Hong Kong air pact may be a reference for future cross-strait talks, especially regarding direct links.

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