Op-Ed Contributors

Taiwan must march westward to prosper

By Liu Hsiao Hsu (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-05-12 07:54
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Editor's note: Taiwan should not waste more time in pointless infighting, and instead welcome the ECFA.

In late April, the leaders of the two biggest parties in Taiwan, Kuomintang (KMT) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), engaged in a crucial open debate on the proposed Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan. The debate drew the attention of compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Straits.

The ECFA can be seen as a transitional agreement on way to a free trade zone across the Straits. If it is signed, the mainland and Taiwan would in 10 years reduce the Customs duty to zero on more than 90 percent of agricultural and industrial products. According to the agreement, Taiwan could continue to sign free trade agreements with foreign countries and thus keep expanding its exports and avoid being discriminated against in trade.

In Taiwan, however, there is concern that if the agreement is signed the island's economy may become excessively dependent on the mainland, which consequently would impact its internal politics.

Related readings:
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Taiwan must march westward to prosper ECFA to help Taiwan forge FTAs: Shih
Taiwan must march westward to prosper Taiwan parties clash over ECFA

Opening the debate, Ma Ying-jeou, chairman of KMT, declared: "Trade is the lifeline of Taiwan. Without trade, there would be no Taiwan." He said: "We cannot put all our eggs in one basket, but how can we not put any egg in the biggest basket."

Ma's words reflect the nature of the island's economy and the thoughts of most of the Taiwan people. Taiwan's economic power has dwindled and unemployment rate risen in recent years. Only if it strengthens its export competitiveness and expands its foreign trade can investment be stimulated in order to boost employment and consumption and restart rapid economic growth. It is the only way to address the root cause of Taiwan's economic plight.

Tsai Ing-wen, chairperson of DPP, was of course firmly against the ECFA. The DPP, however, cannot deny two vital facts about Taiwan's economy. First, the island cannot change the current trend of globalization and regional economic integration, and its economy cannot survive isolation from the outside world because it is highly dependent on the international market. Second, Tsai's opposition can neither change the mainland's status as the world's workshop and gigantic market, nor cut its geographic and cultural ties with Taiwan.

That Taiwan can do without sharing the benefits of the mainland's economic rise is only the wishful thinking of Tsai and her party. Their narrow-mindedness can only isolate Taiwan from the development of the world. The DPP can only oppose the ECFA. But it has no specific plan to revive Taiwan's economy, showing that it is incapable of bridging the gap between reality and its ideology.

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