Taipei, April 4 (CNA) The Presidential Office continued to challenge the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Sunday over its foreign policy approach while it was in power from 2000-2008, in what may be a prelude to an upcoming debate over a proposed trade pact with China.
The offensive began Saturday when President Ma Ying-jeou's spokesman Lo Chih-chiang said Ma will focus on the economic isolation caused by the DPP's policies to buttress his support for a framework agreement on trade with China when he debates the issue later this month.
According to the Liberty Times, DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang later denied the accusations that the DPP had adopted a "closed-door policy" that led to Taiwan's isolation, citing the party's effort to push for Taiwan's WTO accession.
Lo responded Sunday, however, that Taiwan actually began the push to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) while the Kuomintang (KMT) was in power in the late 1980s and that the DPP simply harvested the results of the KMT's efforts when Taiwan gained admission to the world trade body in November 2001.
The exchange reflects one of the fault lines likely to color the upcoming debate between President Ma and DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen on the controversial economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China.
The president believes it is an essential first step in combating Taiwan's economic marginalization while the DPP sees it as a trap that will leave the country at China's mercy.
Lo said Saturday the president will make the argument that an ECFA "is an important step in breaking through the country's isolation created when the DPP was in power." He added Sunday that the historical record will prove that Taiwan began efforts to join the WTO's predecessor, the GATT, in 1987 when Vice President Vincent Siew was serving as the director of the Bureau of Foreign Trade.
Taiwan submitted an application for membership with the GATT's Secretariat in 1990, launching a 10-year process of bilateral and multilateral trade negotiations with many countries around the world, Lo said.
Taiwan was granted observer status by the GATT in 1992 and formally acceded to the world trade body on January 1, 2002, Lo said.
The spokesman added that Taiwan was the world's 14th leading exporter in the world in 2002, but that the ranking continued to slide, to 17th in early 2009.
"An assessment made by the Bureau of Foreign Trade concluded that Taiwan's ranking could rebound back to at least 15th if the ECFA is signed and implemented in the next year or two," Lo said.
"Amid the rising global trend of regional integration to facilitate trade and economic development, how can Taiwan maintain its economic lifeline if it fails to sign the trade pact with China?" he asked.
The Ma administration has been pushing hard for the conclusion of the pact with China out of concern that the country will be marginalized by being left out of regional trade blocks.
The DPP strongly opposes the pact, however, arguing that it will actually lead to heavy job losses domestically and will undermine Taiwan's sovereignty.
(By Lee Shu-hua and Deborah Kuo)