While meeting with the scholars attending the US-Japan-Taiwan Trilateral Strategic Dialogue in Taipei on August 21, Taiwan "president" Chen Shui-bian again put forward his proposal of setting up a Free Trade Area (FTA) with the United States and Japan. He stressed that the United States, Japan and Taiwan should adjust their investment and economic policies towards the Chinese mainland.
Chen came up with the FTA proposal in April when meeting with a senior official from the Department of Commerce of the United States. Chen stressed that economic security is the key factor in national security as well as regional security.
This proposal, like the "south-bound policy" which is aimed at reducing Taiwan's economic dependence on the Chinese mainland, focuses on political considerations rather than economic interests.
The Beijing-based Association for Shipping across the Taiwan Straits revealed that last year cross-Straits trade reached US$32.3 billion, of which Taiwan's exports to the mainland accounted for 85 percent. Obviously, Taiwan's trade surplus with the mainland is to the island's advantage.
The trade between the mainland and Taiwan is much more than that between Taiwan and the United States, and between Taiwan and Japan.
Taiwan's agriculture, and its financial industry and other parts of the service sector would be exposed to competition from the United States and Japan if the FTA agreement were signed.
In the eyes of the separatists in Taiwan, the increasing economic interdependence between the island and the mainland would undermine their separatist ambitions. What Chen wants to get from the FTA has nothing to do with the economic interests of the Taiwanese people; it is a bid to get indirect international support for his political ambitions. Through setting up closer economic relations with the United States and Japan, Chen hopes to more easily get their acquiescence to or even support for his pursuit of Taiwan independence.
Enhancing economic and trade relations with foreign countries, in particular the United States, would hinder or even cut economic links with the mainland, slowing down the process of economic integration across the Taiwan Straits, which has been gaining momentum over the last decade -- that is Chen's deliberate intention.
Chen Shui-bian's FTA proposal is a new political plot to try to separate the island from the motherland and "integrate" it into the international community at the expense of the Taiwan people's well being and the island's economic development.
(China Daily September 2, 2002)