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Taiwan must access results of China pacts

Taiwan must access results of China pacts

The Taiwan government, political parties and all citizens should carefully access the actual results and lessons of the opening of direct cross-strait links and other agreements signed with the People's Republic of China before rushing into an "economic cooperation framework agreement'' (ECFA) with our authoritarian neighbor.
Since last July, Taipei's Strait Exchange Foundation Chairman and KMT Vice Chairman Chiang Ping-kun and Beijing's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin have signed nine such pacts, including three agreements signed on Nov. 4, 2008 in the Grand Hotel amidst intense protests, which erupted into violent clashes with police and Taiwan-centric demonstrators two days later.
These pacts have included agreements on commercial air passenger and cargo links, marine transportation, mutual judicial assistance and food safety mechanisms and liberalization of Chinese tourism and were touted by Ma and other KMT government officials as making up for eight lost years'' under the former Democratic Progressive Party government.
However, just like Mas rash and now unrealizable promise to boost average annual economic growth rates to over six percent, the promised cornucopia of benefits from "liberalization and opening'' of Taiwan to the PRC economy has failed to materialize.
Although the KMT government confidently promised that 3,000 Chinese tourist arrivals daily and would inject NT$60 billion annually into the economy, the actual volume of PRC travellers averaged only 1,307 from December 2008 through September 2009, a fraction of the average 11,897 daily visits to the PRC by Taiwan citizens during the same period.
Moreover, the substantive benefits to Taiwan's economy and employment are subject to a substantial "discount'' due to the concentration of PRC package tour groups in the hands of PRC-approved tour companies and the "squeezing out'' of spending by higher-spending tourists from Japan or other nations and many local citizens who avoid sites frequented by PRC tour groups.
Taiwan as a 'spoke'
Although the number of PRC tourists more than doubled year on year to nearly 624,000 during the first eight months of 2009, the inflow of Japanese tourists, who spend 1.4 times more daily and spread their activity and purchases far more widely in Taiwan, shrank 10.7 percent to just over 638,000.
According to an estimate by the DPP's Policy Research and Coordination Department, gross revenues from Chinese tourism over the past 15 months has amounted to NT$32.8 billion, far less than the promised NT$60 billion annual input.
Moreover, the establishment of direct marine and air links has failed to revitalize Taiwan's major gateways such as Kaohsiung Port and Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.
During the first half of 2009, Taiwan's main port of Kaohsiung, which was supposed to be revitalized by the implementation of direct links, suffered a 21.1 percent drop in cargo traffic, for the second worst record among East Asia's top 10 seaports.
During the first eight months of 2009, arrivals and departures through Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport fell nearly 11.5 percent, while total air cargo throughput dropped nearly 25 percent. While much of the decline is attributable to the economic recession, the structuring of the "direct links'' agreements in line with the PRC's characterization as "domestic routes'' also contributes to these declines.
Most of Taiwan's shipping fleet, mainly "flag of convenience'' cargo vessels, are barred from cross-strait marine shipping since they are "foreign'' registered, while Beijing's denial of fifth-freedom onward connections for Taiwan airliners and restriction of cargo shipments to direct cross-strait trade is reducing Taiwan's air and sea ports from "Asia-Pacific'' marine and air "hubs'' into "spokes'' for PRC ports, notably Shanghai.
Moreover, the toothless agreement on cross-strait food safety has failed to deliver the promised reparations for Taiwan companies hurt by imports of melamine - laced milk powder, while a pact on "judicial assistance'' inked in April has yet to result in the extradition of a single major economic fugitive back to Taiwan.
Far from revitalizing Taiwan's economy, the opening of direct links and other "liberalizations'' by the KMT government without adequate complementary measures or building "firewalls'' to defend Taiwan's economic autonomy and hedge political and social risks is eroding our economic dynamism and allowing the PRC to capture the lion's share of economic and political dividends.
The failure of the first nine agreements to deliver the benefits promised by the KMT government should give Taiwan citizens cause for serious reflection on whether the ECFA will truly benefit Taiwan citizens, especially given the Ma government`s transparent lack of willingness to risk a breakdown of any talks through vigorously upholding Taiwan's interests.
Finally, the KMT government has an obligation to provide the Taiwan people with a public review and assessment of the implementation of the nine pacts, an explanation on what the Taiwan government is doing to correct their deficiencies and ensure Beijing's compliance, and remedial measures to deal with negative impacts and a frank assessment of the proposed ECFA's likely economic, social and political price tags.


Updated : 2021-04-19 03:52 GMT+08:00