One of the main objectives of President Ma Ying-jeou's administration is to secure free trade agreements (FTAs) with other countries. In order to beat the competition, however, the government needs to change its tentative and cagey mindset and build a well-organized combat team.
In fact, the large number of free trade deals achieved by South Korea was the result of a painful process that saw the replacement of four agriculture ministers, two prime ministers and one president.
Taiwan has not displayed the same level of intrepidness as South Korea, as evidenced by the way the government is dealing with U.S. beef imports. We should realize that if Taiwan were to negotiate an FTA with the United States, the beef trade would only be a drop in the bucket. The tariffs imposed by Taiwan on U.S. agricultural imports, which now average 12 percent, would have to be removed altogether.
It is important that the government does not recoil in the face of challenges.
A working group set up after Taiwan's admission to the World Trade Organization is now responsible for coordinating FTA-related efforts. Though the group is led by the vice premier, we cannot see its connection to the promotion of FTAs and trade liberalization. Also, it has not functioned as a channel of communication with the private sector.
This demonstrates that the government has yet to put together an FTA combat team. The government needs to set up a specialist committee as soon as possible to deal with FTAs. (Editorial abstract -- June 22, 2012)
(By Y.F. Low)