A government that fails to see the predicament faced by businesses that have been trying to open up the Chinese market for more than 20 years is in no position to tell other, more locally dependent industries, to have faith in the cross-strait service trade pact, Rex How (郝明義), chairman of Locus Publishing Co and a presidential adviser, said yesterday.
Representatives from the publishing and related sectors — printing, distribution and retail — held a press conference to release a report finished drafted after holding public hearings with industry members this month.
The government keeps encouraging the publishing industry to “look to the west [China]” and “be more competitive,” but the “many people in the industry have been doing so for more than 20 years and 80 percent of us agree to opening up [Taiwan’s market],” How said.
“What we are really asking for is a symmetrical agreement and the Chinese market made as open [as Taiwan’s] by the agreement,” he said. “However, that is the one thing the government failed to secure.”
The report said the government was deliberately secretive in its negotiations and signing of the agreement, having failed to even seek the opinions from the partly state-owned Printing Technology Research Institute.
Institute chairman Chen Jeng-shion (陳政雄), interviewed for the report, said that as far as he knew no one in the printing sector had been consulted by the government about the pact, even though it is one of the industries covered in the agreement.
Contrary to the advice of Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics — that “no trade agreement should put commercial interests ahead of broader national interests,” the government was trying to excuse its failure to safeguard national interests and national security by touting “economic benefits,” How said.
“However, a shortage of capital has not been the publishing industry’s primary concern. It is having a larger Chinese-language publishing market, which is crucial for Taiwanese publishing and related industries to thrive,” he said.
The report said most of the printing companies interviewed said the service trade agreement has not created any new benefits for Taiwan’s industry.
“The items opened on the Chinese side for Taiwan have been in practice for years already; there is no substantial gain from the pact,” a printing company president was quoted as saying in the report. “As for the coveted ‘printing permit’ and ‘secret carrier permit’ [which allow a company to participate in China’s public tenders] that have been long requested by Taiwanese companies given Chinese authorities’ firm grip on their publishing sector, our government did nothing.”
In relation to such permits, a government official reportedly said that we “do not bring up things that are not possible.”
Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Mainland Affairs Council officials told publishing industry representatives on July 12 that China was determined not to open up the sector because the printing and publishing industries in China are “a political issue.”
However, How questioned why, if the political sensitivity issue was acknowledged, the government was “so eager to open up our printing, distribution and retail sectors to China?”
“All 585 publishers in China and the publishing corporations comprised of printing, distribution and retail are state-owned,” he said, adding that Taiwanese officials have to stop deceiving themselves about the political incentives embedded in Chinese investments in various industries.
With more than 20 years of experience in investing in China, Suncolor Culture Publishing Co chairman Chang Hui-ming (張輝明) said he began concentrating on his business in Taiwan over the past five years.
“The [China] dream broke into pieces a long time ago,” Chang said. “I came to the painful realization that while in Taiwan published works are considered culture and knowledge, in China, they are guns and ammunition. You just cannot resolve political issues with economic thinking.”