President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) recent sense of urgency about joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and his deliberate linking of the TPP and the completion of the cross-strait service trade agreement had a political agenda behind them and Ma has completely “missed the point” of Taiwan’s pursuit of joining regional economic integration, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said yesterday.
After saying two-and-a-half years ago that Taiwan would try to join the TPP in eight years, Ma has suddenly changed his tune on the issue, saying on Jan. 1 that Taiwan should join the agreement “as soon as possible” and organized a series of seminars for Taiwanese diplomats this week on the topic.
Meanwhile, Ma has demanded that the legislative caucus of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) quickly pass the service trade agreement between Taiwan and China, so that other countries will be convinced that Taiwan would be a responsible signatory for every trade pact it signs.
Ma’s position has precisely echoed Beijing’s perspective, as Chinese officials said Taiwan must complete follow-up agreements under the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement before it supports Taiwan joining the TPP and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership at the first cross-strait governmental meeting in 65 years in Nanjing last week, DPP Policy Research Committee executive director Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) told a press conference.
“It appeared that Ma was trying to make the opposition parties the scapegoat for stalled screening of the agreement in the legislature and the slow progress of the TPP negotiations,” Wu said.
By raising the TPP issue, Ma “was actually trying to push through the controversial service trade agreement to pave the way for a potential meeting between him and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平),” Wu added.
The public and the DPP were concerned about the service trade pact because the negotiation had been opaque and there had been little consultation before it was signed, Wu said, adding that even KMT lawmakers were worried about the negotiation process and that was why a resolution demanding legislative screening was reached.
In terms of the TPP, Taiwan’s real obstacles are self-imposed, DPP Department of International Affairs director Liu Shih-chung (劉世忠) said, because the more important tasks involve deregulation, market opening and industrial upgrade and adjustment.
As bilateral negotiation with the 12 current TPP members would be required once Taiwan enters the second round of TPP talks, the Ma administration is advised to establish an inter-agency task force to comprehensively study each TPP member rather than holding meaningless diplomat seminars, Liu said.