Last Thursday, Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement exited the Legislative Yuan – which it had occupied for full three weeks – but the debate over its impact, both domestic and external, is still brewing. And rightly so. In a counter-offensive, Taiwan’s government, its de facto embassies, and supporters of the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA, also known as the Trade in Services Agreement, TiSA) argued that CSSTA opponents are wrong about the Taiwan Government’s lack of transparency and that the protests (and Taiwan’s inability to proceed with a signed agreement) will harm its international reputation as a credible economic partner.
I have argued otherwise. In my opinion, Taiwan’s relations with China are unique and other states that negotiate with Taiwan are very well aware of this fact. Protests over the cross-strait deal won’t concern them as long as their own negotiations with Taiwan are not similarly affected. Charles I-hsin Chen, in a partial responseto my piece, argues that this observation is superficial. Unfortunately, in the pursuit of a more in-depth analysis, Dr. Chen fails to bring more substance to the arguments that have been already claimed by the current administration.
However, Dr. Chen is raising a couple of arguments that deserve greater attention. Dr. Chen, for example, has joined Taiwan’s Economics Minister Chang Chia-juch in arguing that the Philippines, Israel, India and Indonesia, among others, are reconsidering bilateral talks with Taiwan because of the protests and the legislature’s inability to ratify the service pact. More interestingly, Dr. Chen argues that the major obstacle for Taiwan’s FTA negotiations is that potential partners want to make sure that there will be no political interference from China.
Dr. Chen refers to authorities like Richard C. Bush (Brookings Institution), Bonnie Glaser (CSIS) and Rupert Hammond-Chambers (U.S.-Taiwan Business Council) to support the point that China may block Taiwan’s FTA aspirations if the CSSTA is not concluded. Glaser indeed argued in a recent interview with The Diplomat that “China can use its influence to pressure one of the twelve TPP negotiating countries to not permit Taiwan to join.” It is unfortunate that the part of the interview where Bonnie Glaser argues that protests won’t affect bilateral negotiations is omitted.
In a similar fashion, Hammond-Chambers’ point that while trade relations with China have boomed, ties with other partners have expanded only marginally. Nor does Dr. Chen mention that while Hammond-Chambers argues that the dispute over the CSSTA may result in less stable cross-Strait relations, he also argues that the U.S. government cannot stay idle and needs to help Taiwan in future negotiations. (Cont.)
This article, published in The Diplomat on April 19, continues here.