Taiwanese would be left with no choice but to depose President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) if he continued to deny the public the right to vote on an economic pact his administration intends to sign with Beijing, panelists attending a cross-strait forum said yesterday.
Wang To-far (王塗發), an adjunct professor of economics at National Taipei University and a former Democratic Progressive Party legislator, told the forum hosted by a pro-localization think tank, Taiwan Advocates, the Taiwanese have two options in response to Ma’s refusal to hold a referendum on the economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA).
The public must demand that the government hold a referendum if it intends to sign an economic agreement with Beijing and then a campaign should be launched to depose Ma on May 20, exactly one year into his presidency.
Woo Rhung-jieh (吳榮杰), a professor at National Taiwan University, urged the public to voice their opinions on government policy. They should also let the international community know what they think, he said, adding that he hoped there would be another transfer of power, because it was the government’s job to serve the people, but with Ma’s administration that it is not the case.
National Taiwan University economics professor Kenneth Lin (林向愷) said he was against letting the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-dominated legislature oversee the agreements the administration planned to sign with Beijing this weekend, saying the lawmaking body was “abnormal” in its structure.
While the Mainland Affairs Council and Ministry of Economic Affairs have published pamphlets to promote the ECFA the government plans to sign with Beijing, they mention nothing of the disadvantages, Lin said.
“The government should have sought public consensus on the controversial accord, but rather it set the policy and then forced the public to accept it,” he said. “It runs counter to the principles of democracy. If we let the Ma administration get away with it this time, they will continue to use the same model in all cross-strait negotiations.”
Lin said if the planned pact was signed, Taiwan would be completely marginalized because local and foreign businesses would choose the Chinese market because of its cheaper labor, land and costs.
Describing the ECFA as a framework agreement leading Taiwan toward ultimate unification with China, Wang said it was illogical to announce the pact was a set policy before conducting an assessment.
Wang criticized the government for pinning its hopes on China to resuscitate the local economy. With the ECFA in place, Wang said the government would gradually attain its goal of establishing a “one China” market and ultimately unifying with China.
While Ma pledged that he would not allow more imports of Chinese agriculture products, Woo said he doubted Ma would be able to honor his promise under Chinese pressure.
Once more products enjoy zero tariffs, Woo said, more poor quality Chinese products would inundate the local market and more of the marketing knowhow and production technology that produces higher quality Taiwanese products would be spirited away.
The result would be Taiwan would have lower wages, cheaper land and poorer quality products, he said, adding that the disadvantaged would end up being the biggest losers.
Instead of falling into Beijing’s trap, Woo said the government should rather spend more effort trying to negotiate signing free-trade agreements with Tokyo and Washington.