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Regional economic integration big challenge for Ma: U.S. expert

2012/05/20 16:40:13

Taipei, May 20 (CNA) The biggest challenge for President Ma Ying-jeou in his second term is to find entry points into the process of regional economic integration, a U.S. expert in Washington said Sunday.

Bonnie Glaser, senior fellow of China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, said in an email interview with CNA that she believes Taiwan's economy will suffer greatly if the government does not negotiate free trade agreements with other countries.

She said Taiwan is already lagging behind South Korea and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in regional economic integration.

Taiwan has made extraordinary progress in stabilizing and advancing cross-Taiwan Strait relation in the past four years, "but it is unlikely that this momentum will continue," Glasser said.

For example, the initial items in the 2010 Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement between Taiwan and China were easily agreed upon, but it would require tough negotiations to add more items to the pact, she said.

Beyond economic matters, there is little common basis for discussion of political or military issues between Taiwan and China, she said.

Glaser praised Ma's achievements in cross-strait relations in his first term, but said a "huge breakthrough" in his second term is unlikely. "It is unrealistic" to expect similar progress, she said.

It is also unlikely that Ma would want to broach political or military matters in negotiations with Beijing in his second term, she added.

Meanwhile, Ni Yongjie, vice director of the Shanghai-based Institute of Taiwan Studies, said Ma's inauguration speech on cross-strait relations was practical and showed that the administration intends to further develop ties based on the existing fundamentals.

Ni said Ma's mention of "one Republic of China, two areas" in his inauguration speech is a compromised version of the "one country, two areas" term first raised by former Kuomintang Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung during a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao in March.

The reference indicates that the Ma administration is seeking a way forward for further cross-strait developments, Ni said.

In Taiwan, Ma's inauguration speech received mixed reviews among academics.

Tung Chen-yuan, a professor at National Chengchi University's Graduate Institute of Development Studies, said the president did not clearly address the political probabilities that Beijing would like to hear.

Therefore, it would be hard for the two sides to achieve any breakthrough on the political front in the next four years as Beijing is not expected to make concessions in future negotiations, Tung said.

Tung's fellow professor, Chao Chien-min, however, expressed the opinion that Taiwan-China relations will move forward steadily, although "any unexpected development on the political front is highly unlikely."

(By Lin Shu-yuan, Chou Hui-ying, Ann Chen and Jamie Wang)