Sunday, July 04, 2010

Sovereignty upheld? Think again

President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration on Tuesday was all jubilance after the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) was signed in Chongqing, China, saying that it had managed to sign the pact in a way that upheld Taiwan’s sovereignty.

While it is too soon to tell whether the breakneck pace with which the deal was negotiated (about six months) and the legislature’s likely rubberstamping of the ECFA documents will hurt Taiwan’s interests, the mechanism used to complete the process most certainly did. In that regard, the Ma administration could be accused of dishonesty.

The reason for this is one important point that reports in the international media have generally missed — the ECFA was not signed by two governments but rather, two quasi- official bodies, the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS). No government official on either side of the Taiwan Strait — and more importantly, no elected government official on Taiwan’s side — was involved in the signing.

By relying on two semi-NGOs (the SEF receives government funding) to sign the deal, Taipei allowed Beijing to portray the ECFA as a domestic matter rather than one between two internationally recognized sovereign states. This alone, despite the alleged absence of “political” language in the ECFA documents, sends a dangerous political signal to the international community.

This op-ed, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

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