Panelists attending a forum yesterday on a Closer Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with China said it could jeopardize Taiwan’s economy and sovereignty if Taiwan does sign an agreement.
Hong Kong and China inked a CEPA in June 2003, opening up a huge market for Hong Kong goods and services and effectively improving Hong Kong’s economy. On Jan. 1 the following year, Macau signed a CEPA with China to receive similar trade benefits.
Chairman of the pro-independence Taiwan Thinktank Chen Po-chih (陳博志) said that if Taiwan signs the CEPA, it would bolster China’s scheme to link Taiwan with Hong Kong and Macau as part of Chinese territory, adding that the matter should be decided by voters in Taiwan by putting it to a referendum.
“What China is doing is trying to secure political power through the support of the business community and speed up reunification by economic means,” he said.
Chen said that an economic agreement like a CEPA would not only compromise Taiwan’s economic strength but would also eventually jeopardize the country’s sovereignty because “when Taiwan becomes more and more dependent on China, Beijing can use the economy for political coercion.”
Echoing Chen’s opinion, Taiwan Labor Front president Ngou Giok-siong (吳玉祥) told the forum hosted by the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) Policy Committee that the Taiwan government should take Hong Kong’s example as a warning, “as China is always the biggest winner in the game.”
Describing Hong Kong’s economy after signing a CEPA with China as a “bubble economy,” he said the Taiwanese government should hold public discussions on whether to sign a major agreement with China or hold a referendum on the issue.
“If the government just goes ahead without considering the consequences, Taiwan will end up like another Hong Kong,” he said.
In response to DPP lawmakers’ questions, Mainland Affairs Council Chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) said on Thursday that the legislature would not sign an agreement with China.
But Ngou said he still harbored concerns, saying that if the CEPA were signed, a large number of Taiwanese labors would be unemployed after Chinese laborers and cheap products entered the country.
DPP Legislator Twu Shiing-jer (??, another panelist at the forum, said Chinese “black hearted” food could easily enter Taiwan, jeopardizing the nation’s food safety network.
Twu added that after Hong Kong signed a CEPA with China, Hong Kong had to loosen inspections of domestic fowl imported from China. As a result, this contributed to a breakout of bird flu in Hong Kong in June 2003, he said.
He said that there were substantial differences between Taiwan and China in terms of the quality of food standards, medical services and public health, as well as differences in the way people think and do business, saying that a CEPA “is not what Taiwan needs.
“Taiwanese are not Chinese; Taiwan does not belong to China and Taiwan is better than China,” Twu said.