We strongly call on opposition Kuomintang lawmakers to shelve ideological nitpicking and expedite the ratification by the Legislative Yuan of the proposed free trade agreement between Taiwan and Nicaragua, which was signed in June of this year.
When approved by the Legislative Yuan, the pact with Nicaragua will become Taiwan's third FTA in Central America, following existing pacts with Guatemala and Panama, and has major importance for Taiwan's economic and trade expansion and for the consolidation of our diplomatic position in Central America.
In the economic field, the pact will undoubtedly spur bilateral trade, which topped US$20 million last year, and investment between the two countries.
After the FTA goes into effect, Nicaragua will provide immediate tariff-free treatment for 3,374 products from Taiwan, accounting for 51.1 percent of its exports to Nicaragua. In turn, Taiwan will immediately remove tariffs on 5,797 products provided by Nicaragua.
Fifteen years after the FTA goes into effect, 97.3 percent of Nicaraguan products will enter the Taiwan market freely, while 95.1 percent of Taiwan products will be able to enter the Nicaraguan market freely, officials said. Even more importantly, the FTA with Nicaragua forms a key link in a series of FTAs that Taiwan has signed or is negotiating with other Central American diplomatic allies that are participating in the United States Central American Free Trade Agreement, which took effect in April.
Establishing FTAs with such Central American nations will open doors for products manufactured by Taiwan-invested factories in CAFTA members to enjoy low tariff or duty-free entry into the North American market.
Besides Guatemala, Panama and Nicaragua, Taipei has recently completed FTA talks with El Salvador and Honduras.
Politically, the ratification by the National Assembly and the review of a ratification bill by Taiwan' Legislative Yuan come at an extremely sensitive moment in Taiwan's relations with Nicaragua in the wake of the victory in that country's November 5 presidential elections of the left-wing Sandinista National Liberation Front's (FSLN) Daniel Ortega by a 38 percent plurality.
Rumors were rife in the wake of Ortega's election what the FSLN president-elect would abide by a campaign promise to switch Managua's official ties back to Beijing, which his government had recognized during his 11 years in office after the Sandinista revolution that overthrew the former Somoza dictatorship until the FSLN government was ousted in presidential elections in 1990.
Fortunately, Ortega has apparently reconsidered his position since winning the poll and, according to Nicaragua's United Nations ambassador, will invite President Chen Shui-bian to attend his inaugural in Managua January 10.
A possible sign of goodwill was the unanimous ratification of the FTA by the unicameral 92-seat Nicaraguan National Assembly December 16, including its 38 FSLN members.
If Ortega does continue ties with Taipei, a key factor will undoubtedly be the signing and ratification of the new FTA with Taiwan. This factor turns yesterday's decision by KMT legislators to object to the ratification bill on the most flimsy of formalistic pretexts into an act that may at best be interpreted as an excessive form of nitpicking or as deliberate sabotage.
During hearings in the Legislature's Foreign Affairs committee, KMT Legislator Lee Ji-chu strongly objected to the use of the term "Republic of China (Taiwan)" as not in keeping with the style of formal diplomatic documents, while KMT Legislative Caucus Chief Secretary Tsai Chin-lung declared that the addition of "Taiwan" in parenthesis to "the Republic of China" was "denigrating."
Tsai further threatened that unless the "unnecessary" phrase was struck, the KMT caucus would oppose ratification of the FTA.
First, there are no grounds for such objection as the inclusion of "Taiwan" is both desirable and necessary to ensure that there is no confusion whatsoever between our country and the People's Republic of China.
In the wake of numerous instances of such confusion abroad, the phrase "Republic of China (Taiwan)" has been adopted on all of our citizens' passports, presumably including legislators Lee and Tsai.
The adoption of this phrasing absolutely does not "denigrate" our country's status but on the contrary heightens our international visibility and identification, as Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Bikhim Hsiao correctly noted yesterday in rebutting the objections of the two KMT politicians.
Indeed, we do not believe that the inclusion of "Taiwan" in the signing of this pact is in any way "denigrating" to our country or its citizens.
On the contrary, we wonder why lawmakers of the opposition "Chinese Nationalist Party," which claims to have "nativized" after decades of imposing external rule on Taiwan, are ashamed to refer to this country as Taiwan.
More to the point, as Hsiao noted, this very same expression of "the Republic of China (Taiwan)" has already been utilized in the previously ratified FTAs between Taiwan and Panama and Guatemala, to which the KMT did not raise similar objections.
The question that begs to be answered is why KMT lawmakers have sprung their objections now. Surely they are completely aware that any delay in Taiwan's ratification of the FTA with Managua could well threaten not only major Taiwan economic and business interests but may very well provide a pretext for the incoming FSLN government to dump an "unreliable" Taiwan and deliver a massive diplomatic coup to the Chinese Communist Party-ruled PRC regime.
Whether deliberate or "well-intentioned," the threat to derail or delay ratification of this critical pact at this sensitive time is objectively speaking indistinguishable from attempted sabotage of Taiwan's diplomatic relations or even providing assistance to the PRC's campaign to undermine our ties with Managua and the rest of Central America.
We demand that KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou take action to ensure that his party's lawmakers cease this apparent attempt at diplomatic sabotage at once.