Jerome A. Cohen and Yu-Jie Chen: ECFA and Taiwan’s Political System
Taiwan politics is in turmoil about the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) signed last week with China. Although ECFA promises to benefit Taiwan’s economy, the island’s politicians have been engaged in heated debate over how the Legislature should consider whether to approve this thirteenth agreement between Taiwan’s “semi-official” Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and China’s “semi-official” Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS). This useful debate, and the current inter-party negotiations that it has spawned, offers a chance for Taiwan to improve its democratic institutions and transparency and bridge the gap between bitterly-divided political parties concerning the process of concluding future agreements with China.
Amid the arguments over the appropriate legislative review process, it is easy to lose sight of the Ma Ying-jeou administration’s real accomplishment in dealing with China. During the past two years, despite the Chinese government’s desire to avoid either acknowledging the legitimacy of the Republic of China on Taiwan or weakening Beijing’s claim to sovereignty over the island, SEF has concluded a series of important agreements with ARATS without agreeing to Beijing’s “one China” principle. And ECFA shows institutional development in cross-strait relations by providing, for the first time, for establishing trade offices, monitoring agreement implementation, settling relevant disputes, terminating the agreement and organizing a facilitating bilateral joint committee.
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