Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Why has the WTO yet to be notified about ECFA?

With two weeks left before the full terms of a controversial trade pact signed between Taiwan and China in June come into force, the global trade body has yet to see the documents. Will it ever?

President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration and its counterparts in Beijing accomplished the nearly impossible this year by signing a complex trade agreement between two entities that are technically at war — and one of which does not recognize the other’s existence — in a matter of months.

While free-trade and free-trade-like agreements signed between two states on an equal footing (at least in terms of two-way recognition) usually require years of negotiations, the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) signed between Taiwan and China on June 29 took a little more than five months.

Now, either officials from the Straits Exchange Foundation and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, the two semi-official bodies that were charged with negotiating the trade pact, were incredibly talented and managed to resolve the immense hurdles that have haunted any type of relation between the two entities, or the two sides were too impatient and couldn’t wait to sign the agreement, which offered “proof” that Ma’s cross-strait policies were bearing fruit.

I leave it to the reader to decide which is likeliest, though I would strongly urge that we bear in mind William of Ockham’s sagacious case for parsimony when seeking to explain the cause of a phenomenon amid a plurality of hypotheses.

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

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