Taiwan Pursues Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreements with China

The worsening global financial crisis is likely to further strengthen trade ties between China and Taiwan as it becomes increasingly evident that cooperation will benefit both countries in their efforts to weather the economic storm. As part of the measures being put in place by the government to deal with the island’s recession, Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou has called for a far-reaching economic pact to be signed with China. Referring to this economic pact as the comprehensive economic cooperation agreements (CECA), President Ma has expressed his confidence that cross-strait trade agreements and economic cooperation will be of great benefit to all parties involved.

Taiwan officially slipped into recession in the fourth quarter of 2008, putting pressure on Ma Ying-jeou to deliver on his campaign promises of boosting an economy that was already taking strain when he won a landslide victory in March 2008. At the time Ma vowed to achieve six percent annual growth, but with the unforeseen decline in the global economy, analysts believe he will be hard-pressed to meet this goal.

Another of Ma’s campaign promises was to bolster ties with China, which has already resulted in the reestablishment of regularly scheduled commercial flights, shipping and mail between the two countries. The ownership of Taiwan has been a thorny issue since the 1949 revolution that resulted in the Communist Party coming into power on the mainland, and Taiwan forming its own government. China still views Taiwan as Chinese property and opposition parties in Taiwan have expressed concerns regarding Taiwan’s sovereignty which they feel may be compromised with closer trading ties between the two countries, especially if trade negotiations are to be conducted according to China’s criteria. However, in a press release, Taiwan’s government stated that the planned trade deals with China “will not jeopardize the island’s sovereignty and could provide a boost during the global economic downturn”.

With China actively strengthening trade negotiations with parties such as the European Union and the United States, Taiwan’s competitiveness in world markets has taken a battering. Bearing this in mind, some see the comprehensive economic cooperation agreements with China as being a necessity for economic survival that far outweighs any perceived threats to Taiwan’s sovereignty.