Studies show that in the past decade, Taiwan trade with Asia performed as well as, and in some cases better than, countries that signed various trade agreements from which Taiwan was excluded
It may have been inadvertent, but recent praise by US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and US President Barack Obama for the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) cut through the smokescreen blown up by President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration by directly pointing to its political impact.
Ever since the idea of a free-trade-like agreement between Taiwan and China was proposed, Ma and his government have emphasized time and again that the pact was purely economic in nature and had no political ramifications whatsoever. This position, stemming from necessary constraints, dovetailed with Ma’s promise not to enter political dialogue with Beijing during his term in office.
Though critics of the ECFA have not been deceived by these pronouncements and have repeatedly assailed it over its political ramifications, and despite open references to it by Beijing officials as an instrument of unification, Taipei has been unwavering in its claim that politics are extraneous to the agreement.
However, no sooner had Washington begun praising the trade agreement in terms of its political benefits than Taipei shifted gear and interpreted this as encouragement for extended dialogue with Beijing. Speaking at the US Department of State on Jan. 14, Clinton praised the ECFA and called for more dialogue and exchanges.
My op-ed, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.