"The ECFA [the proposed Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement with mainland China] is like a rose with thorns," says Premier Wu Den-yih. "Optimists see the flower; pessimists see the thorns."
Wu promises the government will "pay heed to both the flower and the thorn; see both the opportunities and the risks," and says that its various departments will work together to maximize the benefits and minimize the costs.
Only if the public can be persuaded to overcome its fear and support the government as it reaches for this flower, will Taiwan have the chance to harvest a long-anticipated bounty-another period of economic growth and transformation.
As we go to press, the fourth round of cross-strait talks between Chiang Pin-kung, chairman of Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation, and Chen Yunlin, chairman of the mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, are slated to get underway in Taichung on December 22 against a backdrop of protest by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which has been calling for the government to protect the livelihoods of Taiwanese workers and to break open the black box in which it has been conducting negotiation.
Following on the third round of Chiang-Chen talks, which resulted in nine agreements and one consensus, the fourth will include the final discussions and signing of agreements on fishing-labor cooperation, standards for product testing and certification, and the inspection and quarantine of agricultural products.
However, the DPP and its allies are working to make the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA)-unfinished, unsigned and not on the agenda at this round of talks-into the biggest political controversy since the debate over the importation of American beef. In an effort to scuttle cross-strait talks and upset the Ma administration's China policy, the green camp has been calling for a 100,000-person march and for hounding Chen Yunlin wherever he goes.
What exactly is the ECFA? Is it really that complex? Are the risks truly so great? Let's take a look.