The review and enforcement of an investment protection pact between Taiwan and China is more important than focusing on its possible limitations, local academics said before the deal was to be signed today.
The pact’s significance is that both sides of the Taiwan Strait were able to reach the greatest possible consensus and commit to making adjustments as the agreement is carried out, said Andy Chang (張五岳), director of Tamkang University’s Graduate Institute of China Studies.
“Cross-strait affairs are characterized by the fact that no goal is achieved in just one shot,” Chang said, adding that the true test would be how the text is interpreted and enforced.
The pact, which had been stalled for two years by seemingly irreconcilable differences, is a political symbol of the ongoing exchanges between the two sides and serves as a foundation for further discussions, Chang said.
The pact will offer multiple channels through which Taiwanese investors in China can settle disputes and includes provisions protecting their personal safety, but questions have arisen over some of the terms because they did not meet the standards the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) had hoped to achieve.
Taiwan wanted the deal to stipulate that disputes could be settled by international arbitrators, but China rejected the idea, fearing that such a clause would tacitly acknowledge Taiwan’s sovereignty. Taiwan also insisted on a clause that if a Taiwanese businessperson were arrested in China, Chinese authorities would be required to notify the individual’s family of his or her whereabouts within 24 hours, without exception.
However, that also hit a snag because China’s newly amended criminal law stipulates that authorities do not need to inform family members of arrests of those suspected of crimes against national security or terrorism.
“I don’t know what we can expect from this blank check. It’s a shame to the country,” Victims of Investment In China Association president William Kao (高為邦) said.
However, Tung Chen-yuan (童振源), who served as the MAC’s deputy head from 2006 to 2008 under the Democratic Progressive Party administration, said the pact is at least a step forward in that the two sides were willing to put forth tangible commitments on the issues in writing.
“The text of the agreement looks OK to me. The question is whether China is willing to honor its words,” Tung said.
Chen Te-sheng (陳德昇), a research fellow at National Chengchi University’s Institute of International Relations, suggested that periodic reviews should be conducted to see if lingering disputes are being resolved under the new pact.
“That would hold the authorities accountable and tell us if the agreement is really working,” he said.
The investment pact, along with a cross-strait customs cooperation agreement, is expected to be signed today by Straits Exchange Foundation Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) and his Chinese counterpart, Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林).