An open response to Open letter, part 2

Published in Taipei Times on Thursday July 09. 2009.
On behalf of the Government of the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan, I am writing in response to the “Open letter to Taiwan’s president” cosigned by 26 persons and published by the Taipei Times on May 21 expressing concerns about transparency in our government’s cross-strait policymaking processes. I would like to take this opportunity to clear up a number of misunderstandings in this regard.
1. Affirmation of the ROC’s cross-strait policy
In its cross-strait policymaking, this administration has always firmly upheld the ROC’s sovereignty. It has never changed and never will change its insistence on the principle of “putting Taiwan first for the benefit of the people.”
In the overall national interest, we have resumed institutionalized cross-strait negotiations, replacing confrontation with dialogue. Under the precondition of parity and dignity, the two sides have conducted three rounds of talks and have signed nine agreements and a joint statement on investment, which have advanced the normalization of cross-strait economic exchanges and strengthened protections for the financial assets of the people of Taiwan.
Surveys commissioned by the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) — such as those conducted by National Chengchi University, Berkeley Marketing Research and China Credit Information Service — reveal that the majority of people in Taiwan believe that cross-strait relations have become more relaxed. About 70 percent of respondents were satisfied with the cross-strait agreements and more than 60 percent believe the agreements will have a positive influence on Taiwan’s economy. Meanwhile, most respondents think that national sovereignty has not been denigrated.
The US State Department has solidly affirmed and praised our government’s mainland policies. Signatories of the open letter familiar with the US government’s hopes for better cross-strait relations should understand the reason for this. Can it be that worsening relations and rising tensions across the Taiwan Strait would be more advantageous to US interests?
2. No need for an ECFA referendum
The primary purposes of an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) are to maintain the competitive edge of Taiwan’s industries in the mainland market and to strengthen our foreign trade momentum so as to minimize the danger of being marginalized. A MAC-commissioned survey conducted by Berkeley Marketing Research in mid-April revealed that 70 percent of the respondents support the negotiation of an ECFA, indicating most people look at the potential benefits of such an agreement in a positive light.
With no question of sacrificing sovereignty, benefits for Taiwan’s economy include reducing the relocation of factories to other countries and thereby protecting jobs; lowering tariffs on our products and thereby boosting their competitiveness in the mainland market; spurring Taiwan’s globalization; and facilitating the negotiation and signing of economic agreements with other countries.
3. Any ECFA will be sent to the legislature for review
This administration has communicated extensively with the public in the hope that an ECFA can be signed before 2010. In the process of planning, the administration will be scrupulous in communicating with and explaining relevant matters to the legislature and all sectors of society. Whatever economic agreements are signed with mainland China will be sent to the legislature, in accordance with the law, for review and supervision. The same applies to any future cross-strait economic agreements.
It is clearly untrue, therefore, that, as claimed in the letter, cross-strait exchanges lack transparency and genuine dialogue, decisions and agreements are arrived at in secrecy and then simply announced to the public, and the legislature seems to have been sidelined.
4. Signing an ECFA will facilitate FTAs
The US government has indicated that without improved cross-strait relations and trade liberalization, the US cannot sign a free-trade agreement (FTA) with Taiwan. In fact, since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) came into office, the peaceful, steady development of cross-strait relations has won the affirmation of our major trading partners, such as the US, the EU, Singapore, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Many countries have indicated that the normalization of economic and trade relations across the Taiwan Strait will be conducive to expediting FTA talks with Taiwan.
The administration’s policy has always been to pursue FTAs with our major trading partners, while negotiating economic agreements with mainland China. This strategy is aimed at global deployment of our businesses, not just at expanding our mainland Chinese markets. As relations with mainland China progress, we can look forward to improved prospects for signing FTAs with other nations.
Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to all who are concerned for Taiwan, including the signatories of the open letter. We assure you that this administration will continue to maintain transparency and adequate communication with all sectors of society.
Minister, Government Information Office