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ECFA to take Taiwan on road to Hong Kong

ECFA to take Taiwan on road to Hong Kong

President Ma Ying-jeou and his rightist Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) government took Taiwan and its 23 million on a "great leap" toward a neo-colonial status with relationship to the authoritarian People's Republic of China when the controversial "Cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement" was signed yesterday in Chongqing.
Ma and numerous other senior KMT officials have long insisted that the ECFA was "purely economic" and would not erode our national sovereignty or "Taiwan's dignity," but the form and substantive content of the text of the ECFA signed yesterday afternoon in Chongqing between Taipei's Strait Exchange Foundation Chairman Chiang Ping-kun and Beijing's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin blew away these rhetorical fig leafs.
Instead, the ECFA as signed has reduced Taiwan's status as a democratic and independent state to a status similar or even lower than the PRC's "special administrative regions" of Hong Kong and Macau.
The most telling signal of this reality was the date and place of the signing, which occurred precisely on the seventh anniversary of the signing of the "Closer Economic Partnership Agreement" between the PRC central government and the PRC's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region" and the location of the ceremony in Chongqing, the location of peace talks between the late KMT autocrat Chiang Kai-shek and the late CCP Chairman Mao Zedong in August 1945.
These "coincidences sent the symbolic messages that the pact was a "party to party agreement" between the KMT and CCP and that the ECFA was parallel to the CEPAs signed between Beijing and Hong Kong and Macau.
Indeed, Taiwan's status may be even less than Hong Kong since the signers of the ECFA are merely the chairman of two non-governmental organizations.
In contrast, the CEPA clearly used the official title of both the HKSAR and, in a footnote, explained that "the Mainland" stood for "the entire customs territory of the People's Republic of China."
The ECFA's use of the SEF and ARATS instead of the WTO titles, namely the "Separate Custom Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu" or "China," confirmed that the new pact is a bilateral agreement that is decidedly "not in accordance with the regulations of the World Trade Organization."
It is not unimportant that the latter phrase was highlighted as one of the principles of the CEPA, but was absent from the ECFA, which merely pretends to "be based on the principles of the World Trade Organization" but fails to specify under what principles or what regulation it is being signed, which should normally be Article 24 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
The lack of a specific referent to the WTO rule book may allow for some flexibility in avoiding WTO requirements for free trade agreements, such as that "substantively most of the trade" should be liberalized and tariff free within a decade, but at the cost of abandoning or at least putting into a political limbo Taiwan's hard-won international status in the multilateral WTO.
Another common point with the CEPA lies in the ECFA's establishment of a bilateral "cross-strait economic cooperation commission" vested with powers to negotiate further agreements and interpret and resolve disputes.
Moreover, Appendix Three of the ECFA specially excludes the right of either side to use WTO "trade remedies" and thus reduces Taiwan's defenses, such as "anti-dumping" or "anti-subsidy" duties or "national security" or cultural exceptions, against the PRC's institutionalized "social dumping."
While the ECFA has a termination clause, its vague wording and lack of a defined time of effect indicates that its presence is merely an empty formality.
The invisible price tag
Significantly, the comprehensive economic cooperation agreement between the PRC and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations specifically establishes separate and impartial tribunals to handle disputes and explicitly grants the right to use WTO trade remedies in dealing with "early harvest" imports from the PRC.
It should be clear that the ECFA is by no means a normal free trade or economic cooperation agreement but is a bilateral pact signed between two entities of unclear mutual status and which lies outside of the WTO framework.
If the mutual nature of the relationship between the two signing parties is not clarified in the ECFA agreement itself, the claims by Ma and other KMT officials that the ECFA "will not contain" language that denigrates Taiwan's sovereignty are rendered irrelevant because the real nature of the bilateral relationship is defined outside the ECFA's formal wording.
Instead, this definition was clearly laid down by the Dec. 31, 2008 six - point statement by PRC State Chairman and CCP General Secretary Hu Jintao that cross-strait economic cooperation will take place under the umbrella of Beijing's "one China principle," which defines Taiwan as part of the PRC, and the KMT's tacit acceptance of this "domestic" neocolonial status.


Updated : 2021-05-12 03:03 GMT+08:00