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Feb 24, 2009

CECA FTA CEPA ... but no WTO or ASEAN

The proposed Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) between Taiwan and China has been a main focus of the news over the last few days. Read today's Taipei Times article on the subject here. Note that since no formal negotiations on this topic have begun, there is no substance or specifics that can be debated at this time. One favorite quote from the Washington Post article on the subject:

In an interview with the Taipei Times published Friday, Ma seemed to imply that the agreement is a certainty, but he hesitated to respond directly to questions about whether signing it would be tantamount to acknowledging that Taiwan belongs to China.

"As to how the international community perceives the issue, it depends on the stances of different countries," Ma said. "Some countries agree with us, and our allies won't think Taiwan becomes part of communist China when it signs an agreement."

Now to translate some information from blogger Weichen, who takes an ideological tone but has some good information:
Is the CECA an FTA?

The group around Ma Ying-jeou who are selling out Taiwan, who intend to hasten the unification of the countries of China and Taiwan, are strongly insisting on signing a CECA, an important step in the march to unification. This news [link mine] was reported by the Washington Post and created a political firestorm. Ma Ying Jeou of Sell Out Corp. and the Chinese Annexation Group are both working on damage control, and on the front lines of that effort is Li Fei (李非), [deputy director of the Taiwan Studies Center at Xiamen University who the Washington Post quotes as saying the CECA is "a start toward full cross-strait economic integration and a necessary condition for marching forward toward final unification."] Li Fei has now clarified his statement and said the Washington Post misquoted him.

[Note: I just reviewed Li Fei's clarification and it appears the Washington Post quoted him fairly; the main problem seems to have been Taiwanese media rewriting and distorting headlines.]

Our Ministor of Jokes [Economic Minister] even said that the CECA is just an FTA. But this really is funny, since in the book previously written by [MAC chair] Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛), she stated a CECA is a completely open FTA, which is to say that CECA would keep Taiwan's economy at a slightly greater distance from China's economy than an FTA would [I don't really follow the logic here]. Ma Ying-jeou, the brains behind Sell Out Corp., has said that a CECA is a "third method" that is somewhere between an FTA and a CEPA, which is to say that a CECA would bring Taiwan's economy closer to China than an FTA would. Three people all have three entirely different explainations, so which one actually describes a CECA?

Now Sell Out Corp realizes they've been busted, but they are in denial, so they're planning on just changing the name from CECA and treating the public like idiots. First they wanted to sign a CEPA, then only after being criticized did they say they wanted a CECA instead. Whatever name they use now, it's still the same thing.
Weichen finishes the post by showing an editorial in the super-blue United Daily News that blames the DPP for confusing the CECA with an FTA -- which is especially hilarious now that the Finance Minister has said they are the same thing.

My own thoughts on the CECA: it does appear that many Taiwanese businesses, with our without investment in China, are convinced that in order to remain competitive on exports to China or imports into Taiwan, CECA is absolutely critical. Of course they'd love to get the deal with all ASEAN countries and sign an FTA with Japan, the US, and Korea as well. But they see that as much more difficult -- in large part due to China's pressure.

So I think there are very legitimate reasons to be concerned about increasing over dependence on China, but I also sympathize with business concerns and hopes for elimination of tariffs. As long as labor doesn't factor in, and safety measures are taken on food products especially, I think the CECA would probably be a good thing on balance and in the long run.

1 comment:

Thomas said...

This matter has so many sadly laughable factors!

Take Lai's claim that the CECA would be negotiated under the WTO. If negotiation is going to happen under the WTO anyways, where Taiwan and China are separate entities, then why not just push for a regular bilateral free-trade agreement with an (insulting) name like Chinese Taipei?