Taipei and Beijing will hold their fourth round of official talks in Taichung City today amid widespread doubts in Taiwan about the four accords the two sides of the Taiwan Strait plan to sign and lackluster results from the nine agreements and one consensus they have signed so far.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has aggressively pursued improved cross-strait relations since he took office in May last year. His program has raised concerns, especially over whether his cross-strait policy leans too much toward China and if his administration can protect Taiwan’s interests.
The latest poll released by the pro-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) TV station, TVBS, on Thursday found that 52 percent of respondents said the administration’s cross-strait policy tilted too much toward China — much higher than May last year when the same question was answered positively by 43 percent of respondents. In November last year — during the second cross-strait official talks in Taipei — the positive response rate was 42 percent.
Asked about the influence of the nine agreements and one consensus, 31 percent of respondents to the latest poll said they did not think the were conducive to Taiwan’s development, while 30 percent said they were, 13 percent said they did not have any impact at all and 26 percent did not give any opinion.
Commenting on this week’s meeting, 52 percent of respondents said they were not confident the government could protect Taiwan’s interests, while only 35 percent said they were.
This week’s meeting between Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) and Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) will address four issues. The plan is to sign four agreements covering fishing industry cooperation, quality checks of agricultural products, cross-strait cooperation in standard inspection and certification and the prevention of double taxation.
The two sides will also “exchange opinions” on an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) the government hopes to sign with Beijing next year. If opinions can “be exchanged” this week, the ECFA would be placed on the agenda of the next round of cross-strait talks scheduled for the first half of next year.
Despite the government’s assurances, there are widespread doubts and concerns, however, about the accords.
One question that has dogged Chiang is the close business relationship he and his family have with China. Although Chiang had resigned from a joint venture and a foundation to avoid any conflict of interest, he still serves as honorary chairman of the Sinocon Industrial Standards Foundation.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has questioned whether Chiang would benefit from a deal on cross-strait cooperation in standard inspections.
The SEF has dismissed such a possibility, saying the agreement aims to protect consumers, not benefit Chiang’s company. They also said the firm’s business does not overlap with items covered by the agreement and that Chiang was not personally involved in the negotiations.
Lawmakers on the Internal Administration Committee invited Chiang to their meeting to report on the upcoming meeting with Chen and offer a clear account of his role. Chiang, however, turned down the invitation, saying he did not participate directly in the cross-strait negotiations and that he simply followed precedent in not reporting to the legislature.