Taiwan will have to speed up the ratification process of the cross-strait service trade agreement and negotiations for a trade in goods pact with Beijing in the wake of aggressive talks between South Korea and China for a free-trade agreement (FTA), former government officials from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration said yesterday.
“South Korea would be ecstatic to see a prolonged stall of the service trade pact in the Legislative Yuan and a signing of the South Korea-China FTA before the cross-strait trade liberalization is completed,” former Strait Exchange Foundation (SEF) chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) told a press conference.
South Korea, one of Taiwan’s strongest trade competitors, was deeply concerned about its competitive edge in the Chinese market when Taipei and Beijing signed the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) in 2009, Chiang said.
However, domestic strife between political parties has not only stalled the service trade pact, but has also pushed back the follow-up trade in the goods agreement, said Chiang, who oversaw the signing of 18 cross-strait pacts between 2008 and last year as the top cross-strait affairs negotiator.
“I’m afraid that Taiwan will become the second Cuba,” he added, referring to the Caribbean country’s economic isolation.
Former Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) vice chairman Chao Chien-ming (趙建銘) agreed, saying that President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration’s negotiation of the service trade pact was “outstanding” with the WTO-plus treatment in several categories and the agreement would dramatically help Taiwan’s globalization.
The pact, which was signed in June and opened market access to 64 local service sectors to Chinese investment, has been under strong public scrutiny over what the opposition and representatives of the service sectors called lack of transparency and prior consultation. The legislature went on to demand the pact be screened and voted on clause-by-clause.
At the press conference, held for the launch of a new book on opportunities and challenges of cross-strait relations, Chao lamented people’s mistrust of the KMT and political polarization, but said that the pan-blue and the pan-green camps did share consensus in several areas, such as maintaining the so-called “status quo” and the necessity for increased bilateral engagement.
Hong Chi-chang (洪奇昌), who served as SEF chairman during the Democratic Progressive Party administration from 2000 to 2008, said there would be more challenges than opportunities for future relations across the Taiwan Strait, adding that opportunities would not come before preliminary consensus on each other’s political status is reached.
Given the sensibility of the political negotiation, Hong said discussions between private think tanks and academic institutions should be conducted before official talks between governments.
“One thing is sure — neither the isolationism nor the open-door doctrine is encouraged. Taiwan needs to establish its consensus internally and deal with external affairs with risk management,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chang Jung-kung (張榮恭), a former KMT secretary-general and now chairman of Radio Taiwan International, said it was unnecessary to shun political dialogue with China as long as it serves the interest of the people.