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Taiwan: Let’s go poking around under the rock of ECFA

The Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) between Taiwan and China was signed on June 29, 2010 by the Strait Exchange Foundation and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (semi-official representatives for Taiwan and China). Later on August 17, the Legislation Yuan of Taiwan approved this agreement.

The process seems smooth and efficient at the surface, but the story is not simple. Many Taiwanese have poked around under the rock of ECFA and questioned the rationality behind the agreement.

The story of ECFA began two years ago. In 2008, Ma Ying-Jeou, the president candidate of Kuomintang (KMT), was elected as Taiwan’s 12th president. After Ma sworn into office as president, his office proposed to sign CEPA (Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement) with China. platocast explained how CEPA evolved to ECFA:

馬政府一開始說要跟中國簽CEPA…大家一細查,發現全世界只有香港跟中國有簽CEPA,台灣的主權被踐踏至極。馬英九政府怕了,才改成說要簽CECA,大家又發現這換湯不換藥,痛罵馬政府,於是馬英九在二月底一急之下說改簽ECFA。

In the beginning, Ma’s office proposed to sign CEPA with China…After some background check, we found only Hong Kong and Macau signed CEPA with China. Therefore, signing CEPA with China would give away Taiwan’s sovereignty. Due to the blame, Ma’s office changed their mind and proposed to sign CECA with China. However, we found CECA was similar to CEPA and blamed Ma’s office again. At last, President Ma proposed to sign ECFA in Feb (2009).

Although Taiwan’s government started to work on ECFA in Feb, 2009, the contents of ECFA were hidden from the public until it was signed by the Strait Exchange Foundation and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait in June, 2010. The blackbox process worried the opposition party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), and they called for a debate about ECFA with the president. Under the pressure, a televised debate between President Ma Ying-Jeou and the chairperson of DPP, Tsai Ing-wen, was held and aired on April 25th, 2010.

blackrain was disappointed that Ma failed to clarify the doubtful points in ECFA that were addressed by Tsai in the debate.

蔡英文的幾個質疑,加深了 ECFA 的可疑程度。例如:
。農產品開放項目將達到六、七百項之多,馬英九完全迴避這部份的補救措施
。馬英九完全不答有哪些產業會受到衝擊,或是他所宣稱的 17 個受影響的產業是什麼,加深了更多人的疑慮
。蔡英文點出馬英九靠攏財團、以及貧富差距的公義問題,馬英九完全無法回答
。蔡英文成功地反擊了馬英九所宣稱的「急迫性」,馬英九無法化解

What Tsai Ing-Wen questioned deepens the doubt toward ECFA. For example
(1) There are 600-700 agriculture products listed in ECFA, but Ma avoided answering if the government has prepared for the impact.
(2) Ma did not answer the question regarding the industries that will be influenced by ECFA or the details of the 17 industries that he claimed will be influenced by ECFA, which deepened many people’s suspicion.
(3) Tsai pointed out that Ma benefits the big firms and ignores the problems of the poverty gap and social justice, but Ma could not answer this question.
(4) When Tsai controverted the urgency (of signing ECFA) claimed by Ma successfully, Ma could not explain.

Later the DPP distributed a video below on YouTube, accusing ECFA, as CEPA, will cause social injustice:

Here is ESWN's transcription of the video:

(Cantonese voice-over)

There are lots of rich people in Hong Kong. Reports speak of the averarge income in Hong Kong, but I don't get it. There are more and more poor people; everybody works longer hours; eight out of ten street sweepers are university graduates; senior citizens have to scavenge in the streets. Actually, is the Chief Executive sent over from Beijing? It does not matter what CEPA is. It can't be a bad thing to let the people of Hong Kong make more money. But it shouldn't be this way. The rich eat shark fin, whereas the poor cannot even have a single vermicelli noodle?

(in written words) After Hong Kong signed CEPA, it has become the city with the largest wealth inequality in the world. We don't want an ECFA that let the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Martin oei, who have lived in Hong Kong for more than 30 years, commented on this video,

若然簽了ECFA,今日香港,便是明日台灣,甚至情況會更慘。不少香港人,看完民進黨廣告後,都認為廣告反映了他們心聲,特別最尾一句,為何貧民連粉絲都沒得吃?

If Taiwan signs ECFA, Taiwan will become what Hong Kong is today. Many people in Hong Kong think this video, especially the last words, reflects their feelings: why we poor people do not even have vermicelli noodles to eat?

After the debate, the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) requested to hold a referendum on the question: “Do you agree that the government signs ECFA with China?” However, this referendum was rejected by the Referendum Review Commission.

The decision made by the Referendum Review Commission reminded Taiwanese the problem of having this commission in their government. subing said,

公審會頂多有權力做程序審查,也就是說檢查一下連署人數足不足夠,有沒有作假,該送的文件有沒有到齊…根據台灣的公投法,公投要成案最後大約要87萬人連署,這21個人有什麼資格實質審查87萬人的意願?這根本就是違反民主基本原則,也違憲。

At most, the Review Commission should be only authorized to review the process, e.g., check if the number of people cosigned is enough or if all the documents are submitted…Based on the Law of Referendum, we will need 870000 people to cosign the referendum to pass it. Why do these 21 people (in the commission) have the right to judge the intention of these 870000 people? What this commission did violates the basic rules of democracy and violates our constitution.

Despite the dispute, ECFA was signed by the semi-official representatives for Taiwan and China on June 29, 2010. After the articles of ECFA were finally revealed, they stimulated a lot of discussions. For example, KuanMom criticized the Cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Committee mentioned in article 11,

(ECFA)第11條所成立的「兩岸經濟合作委員會」(*),完全不受任何台灣立法機關的監督,空白授權給海基海協指定任何人選, 全權負責協議的執行、解釋、爭議處理、後續所有協商的速度及廣度。ECFA第11條完全不提該委員會如何組成?對誰負責?由誰授權?受誰監督?經費何來?設置在哪?

(*)雙方成立「兩岸經濟合作委員會」(以下簡稱委員會)。委員會由雙方指定的代表組成,負責處理與本協議相關的事宜。

The 11th article (in ECFA) mention setting up the Cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Committee (*), but it does not mention how the Legislation Yuan of Taiwan can supervise this committee. In other words, the committee members assigned by the Strait Exchange Foundation and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait without appropriate authorization will handle the execution and explanation of ECFA, the arbitration of disputes, and all the following negotiations. The 11th article in ECFA does not mention how the committee will be organized, who it should be responsible for, where its authorization comes from, who will supervise it, the funding source of it, or the location of it.

(*) Temporary translation of this article based on the available Chinese version: Both sides should set up the ‘Cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Committee’ (abbreviated as the committee). The members of this committee are assigned by both side, and these members will be responsible to the processes related to this agreement.

Despite the dispute, ECFA was sent to the Legislation Yuan. hehe complained about the process,

從媒體上,我們只看到了大肆報導某立委肢體衝突,但真正的暴力,恐怕是整個會議過程毫無程序正義的多數暴力。
坦白說,我個人對於ECFA簽不簽,並沒有太大的堅持,我也相信多數人和我一樣,希望的只是在一個民主程序下、透過多方意見的討論形成共識;縱使不能形成共識,至少也在各種意見可以得到充分表達的情況下,政府可以更周延的考量到不同立場或生存的人,可能受到的衝擊,而得以有好防範措施。
然而,影片中國會決定將ECFA等相關法案(其中牽涉可能數十、上百的法律條文)逕付二讀的過程,不禁令人懷疑,這樣的立法程序,我們還能期待什麼?

From the media, we only see the physical confrontations between some legislators. However, the real violence is the tyranny of the majority in the meeting without any justice.
To be honest, I do not have a strong opinion regarding signing ECFA or not. I believe most people are like me, and what we want is a consensus that is reached by discussions from different perspectives and following the rules in democracy. Even if we cannot reach a consensus, we hope the government can benefit from these discussions and protect those who will be influenced by ECFA.
Nevertheless, in this video, the way ECFA, which may include tens or hundreds of articles, was passed make us doubt that what we can expect with this kind of legislation process.

Well, we all know what will happen if we poke around the rocks–some very nasty things live under rocks.

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