協商時代的談判高手——蕭萬長

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1995 / 4月

文‧陳雅玲


自從去年農曆除夕中共「國家主席」江澤民發表八點談話,我國行政院長連戰也加以回應後,兩岸關係已進入全新的「協商時代」。

另方面,政府近年大力推動台灣加入關貿總協、申辦亞運、籌設亞太營運中心,而能否成功,很大的關鍵也在兩岸關係。

由於新任大陸委員會主任委員蕭萬長歷任我國經貿部門主管,國際談判經驗豐富,又是亞太營運中心計畫的原始提案人,他的上任能否為兩岸關係開創新局?或是在兩岸政治現實下「黃規蕭隨」?現在正成為眾所矚目的新焦點。


「連院長說兩岸政策以經貿為主軸,我看根本就是『以蕭萬長為主軸』嘛」,專跑兩岸新聞的中國時報資深記者王銘義說。

的確,去年十二月內閣部分改組,最受企業界人士歡迎的,大概就是蕭萬長的轉換跑道——由經濟建設委員會轉戰陸委會了。

幾位工商業龍頭,包括台塑集團的王永在、力霸集團的王令麟等人,都表示「熱切期待」,認為以他的財經背景,應可對兩岸經貿實質關係注入新血。

「他至少很清楚大家的需求,沒有辦法裝作不了解台商啦」,中興紡織總經理商武笑著表示,蕭萬長過去跟他們碰面時講過的話,大家都還記得。

「微笑老蕭」忍辱負重

蕭萬長和企業界之間一直互動頻繁,在擔任經濟部長時,還在一次民意調查中,被選為政商關係最密切的政府首長。

事實上,企業界也一直是蕭萬長的伯樂。當年蕭萬長升任國貿局局長,提拔他的是當時的經濟部長趙耀東。據說,與他沒有特殊交情的「趙鐵頭」之所以選擇他擔任要職,部分原因是「向業者打聽來的」。

若是追溯蕭萬長的從政生涯,就不難理解企業界為什麼對他這麼青睞了。

早在民國六十七年年底,美國片面宣佈中美斷交,那時蕭萬長臨危受命到美國,以兩周的時間完成談判任務,緊急和美國簽署了「中美貿易協定」,確保了未來十年台灣經貿蓬勃發展的基礎。

這一、二十年來,蕭萬長代表國家對外的貿易談判近百次。每次回國時,鏡頭上的蕭萬長都因竭盡心力,不但體重明顯下降,還因為休息太少、火氣上升而整個嘴唇潰腫起來。

他最令人印象深刻的還是開放火雞肉進口的那次中美談判,農民代表對結果不滿意,對著他丟了滿身雞蛋,而他始終面帶笑容的一幕。「忍辱負重」的「微笑老蕭」形象,從此深植國人心中。後來他擔任經濟部長,親自到高雄後勁,與當地居民多次溝通,終於使中油「五輕」廠順利動工。他在經建會主委任內兩度代表李總統參加亞太經合會(APEC),更樹立了國際經濟領袖的地位。

「陸委會主委現在換成談判溝通高手蕭萬長,不免讓人聯想,是不是李總統的政策要轉向,變得比較開放了呢?是否意味大陸政策要走向新的階段,要透過協商來改善兩岸關係?」民進黨中央黨部政策研究中心主任陳忠信認為,以前任陸委會主委黃昆輝的保守形象,較不適合這樣的「基調」;而出身經貿的「微笑老蕭」就可能比較合適。

不是大陸事務門外漢

「從黃昆輝換成蕭萬長,表示在決策意義上有很大的轉變」,王銘義認為,蕭萬長帶著一手為他草擬亞太營運中心計畫書的經建會法規小組執行秘書傅棟成一起來到陸委會,代表經建會和陸委會已經是一體的兩面。「政府把蕭萬長換上來,讓中共聞到台灣政策有轉變的氣氛,開始有很多善意的回應,『江八點』便是選在這個時機出來的」,他大膽推判。

姑不論這樣的推論可信度有多高,至少從蕭萬長的上任時間早於「江八點」,可以看出我方的主動部署。

不過當初發佈這項人事調動時,不只蕭萬長本人意外,他經建會的部屬也頗為吃驚。「當時蕭主委手上還有亞太營運中心、關貿總協、國民年金、國土規劃等四件重大的案子待他完成」,經建會副主委蔡勳雄表示,「不過一個國家主要靠制度,反正主要的政策已經成形,他到新的位置,對國家應該會有更大的貢獻。」

事實上對於兩岸事務,出身外交官的蕭萬長並非門外漢。求學時代念的是外交研究所,還沒有畢業就以特考第一名進入外交部,蕭萬長本來對外交、政治就有相當素養。後來轉到經貿領域,兩岸間接貿易這套模式,就是他在國貿局長任內考訪企業界心聲後,向蔣經國總統建議實施的。此後,和大陸有關的行政院相關會議,蕭萬長也一直列席;在經建會主委任內,他更是陸委會的委員之一。

放大鏡下

然而就在各方對他殷殷寄望下,情勢卻又有了出人意表的發展。

今年一月第三次「焦唐會談」,原本雙方預期會達成協議,最後卻意外地談判破裂,也再度傳出「陸委會授權不足」的說法,蕭萬長甚至被媒體批評為「黃規蕭隨」。此外,企業界本來以為他上台後,會很快依照業界期望開始「三通」,但現在卻聽到蕭萬長口口聲聲「以國家尊嚴、兩千一百萬同胞福祉為最高指導原則」。

難道蕭萬長變了嗎?

「兩岸畢竟不是國際空間,再加上他說的每一句話都被人拿放大鏡看,是他變得小心的原因」,海基會綜合服務處副處長張國葆表示。

但是蕭萬長的秘書胡富雄卻認為,這完全是因事而異。

「大陸政策要注意島內、國際、中共三方面的反應,關係到兩千一百萬人的未來,蕭主委不得不慎重;不像過去在經貿領域,純粹是技術官僚。」

對兩岸事務有本質上的瞭解,就會對此情況比較了然。

工商時報社長彭垂銘認為,大陸政策的訂定非常複雜,陸委會不能只從經貿面來看,還要很平衡地考量各方立場。眾所周知,李總統是大陸政策的主導人,而國統會、國安會對大陸政策也有很大的影響力,「如果純粹看蕭萬長跟工商界的密切關係、比較容易溝通的形象,就以為態勢會改變,這是不太可能的。」

兩岸還對不上焦

此外,大陸政策真的有他難以伸展的地方。彭垂銘指出,中共政策及態度太僵固,即使我們本來想善意互動,也會保守下來。「我認為要大突破是很困難的。這不是對蕭萬長個人能力的不信任,事實上他已經是相當務實的官員了」,他說。

「兩岸關係的現實是,本來其格局就是有限的」,海基會副秘書長許惠祐指出,直到現在中共還是說「一國兩制」,我們說「一國兩區」,雙方都不同意對方的基本態度;此外,彼此關切的重點不同,議題常常無法對焦。例如我們要談大陸偷渡客的遣返;他們卻認為偷渡客來台灣只是為了找工作,如果我們開放「陸勞」,就不會有偷渡客的問題,所以他們要談陸勞開放。「兩岸體制不同、關切點不同、基本認知不同,我們又有內部統獨問題,所以兩岸協商,不可能短期有成」,許惠祐說。

既然大陸政策誰做都差不多,何必這麼大費周章地換人呢?難道蕭萬長真的只有象徵意義嗎?

對此,蕭萬長自己的說法是——立場不變,但做法希望比較靈活。像是雖然不能直接通航、通郵或通商,但他已經建議交通部研擬一套「境外轉運中心」的辦法,讓外國輪船將台商在大陸生產的貨品運到台灣指定的碼頭,再做必要的加工後,轉運出口。

個人風格的不同也會對決策品質有所影響。許惠祐比較前後任主委,黃昆輝是學教育出身的,開會時強調充分討論,循循誘導,希望最後你接受他的觀點;蕭萬長很明快,某種程度的強勢,講求效率,純粹是經濟人的作風。「黃主委是小火慢燉,蕭主委是猛火快炒,但肉還是那一塊。」

混合編組,運籌帷幄

最值得注意的是,由於蕭萬長本身擁有豐富的國際談判經驗,在協商時代,正可以發揮運籌帷幄的作用。

「未來蕭主委可能比較容易把他個人的談判理念『貫徹』進來」,許惠祐認為,四年下來,兩岸關係有了些進展,累積的一些經驗也需要整合。過去只有海基會談判,現在開始要轉變為混合編組——過去海基會分董事長、副董事長(兼秘書長)、副秘書長三個層次出去談判;現在為了靈活運用,三個層次要上下交叉;過去只有事務性談判,現在經濟、文化也要分組去談。

「這樣的規劃方式,絕對需要整體策略,才能全體統籌、掌握」,許惠祐認為,蕭萬長在這方面有豐富的經驗,他正可以一展長才。可以說,兩岸走到協商時代,蕭萬長出線,剛好是時候到了。

蕭萬長在談判上的功力,國際間確實頗有名氣。在他擔任國貿局副局長時代,就擔任其談判幕僚的紡拓會副秘書長張滄漢,曾經和蕭萬長共同經歷過大大小小多達三十回的國際貿易談判。在他眼中,「蕭先生不是非常尖銳、犀利,但他非常冷靜、沈著,永遠用字平和,不講重話。」

他認為,這對談判來說,是非常需要的。保持理智、冷靜,才能觀察對方態勢、理念、要求、部署,甚至底牌。在遇到雙方利益衝突時,他很願意找機會多作解釋,例如利用會後聚餐時間跟對方委婉說明,以柔性作法把僵局打開。而蕭萬長多年建立起來的理性風格,使得對手很願意跟他談,甚至一些棘手的談判,指名道姓要Vincent Siew。談判對手不在其位後,都變成好朋友。這種私誼、人脈,對沒有正式邦交的我國來說,成為很大的助力。有時候對方立場很強硬,蕭萬長會透過別的管道儘量說明,或緩和對方的敵意。「一旦對方願意靜下心來聽我們的困難,協議就比較容易達成了。」

背負十字架的談判者

其實,蕭萬長在政壇上給人忍辱負重的印象,也是從談判中磨練出來的。

張滄漢記得,有一次他和蕭萬長、現任國貿局長林義夫一起到日內瓦參加中美貿易談判。當時美方開出來的條件十分苛刻,而且態度強硬,要就接受,要不就取消雙邊協定。當天議程結束後,他們三人沿著湖邊走回旅館,心情既悲憤又沉重。怎麼辦呢?

當時蕭萬長說的話,張滄漢到現在還印象深刻:「如果我們不接受這樣的條件,談判破裂回國,輿論一定會說我們有骨氣、不做喪權辱國的事,會受到英雄式的歡迎;但是中美之間沒有協定,對中華民國的國際聲望是很大的打擊,而且將來紡織品出口秩序混亂,對產業有負面影響。到時候再來要求美方談判,條件會更為不利。」

考慮至此,就是怎麼在美方設定的原則下,爭取對我們最有利的條件了。後來我國放棄的都是不需要的項目;爭取到的卻是我們產業界最需要的。

「作為一位談判人員,絕對不能追求個人英雄式的表現,期待活在掌聲中。談得好,感到對國家有貢獻,只能自己給自己鼓掌。永遠要背負著十字架」,張滄漢深深感嘆。

今天,蕭萬長也正以他的談判理念要求海基會。他表示,海基會出去談判,無所謂授權夠不夠,「授權你什麼就談什麼,談判代表可依前方狀況將建議傳回後方做決定,但不應有自己的主張。」

對此,海基會倒是相當接受。秘書長焦仁和就表示,蕭萬長的明快作風讓他們有所依循。許惠祐也認為,海基會本來就是接受政府委託,執行談判的公權力。既然是受人之託,本來就應該忠人之事。

不過長於溝通協調的蕭萬長也曉得照顧雙方立場。最近他一方面強化海基會的紀律,但另一方面,也讓海基會參加陸委會的文教會報,加強兩會的聯繫。

「父子騎驢」的兩難

看來蕭萬長已經把過去海陸合作問題做了初步的解決,但是他還有更大的挑戰在前。

「國內現在兩大黨、一小黨,不可能像中國大陸一樣,凡事靠鄧小平拍板定案;我們這邊一定有雜音。過去陸委會都是扮演煞車的角色,未來如何凝聚共識、扮演協調者,會變成陸委會最大的挑戰之一」,陳忠信表示,如果平時朝野不談,等選舉兩邊走極端,看選票決定,是很危險的。

在台灣,大陸政策確實有很大的爭議性。據說過去陸委會在政策實施之前常做民意調查,每次做,都有三分之一反對。他們頗受打擊,後來就把問題反過來問,結果還是有三分之一反對。

這很像《伊索寓言》裡的一則父子騎驢的故事。有一對父子,帶了一頭驢子到市場去賣。路途上,被一個路人看到了,嘲笑他們有驢不騎,真是傻瓜。於是爸爸騎上驢背,結果被一位婦人看到,責備爸爸不愛孩子;這次換兒子騎,結果又被一位老人家罵不孝;這對父子只好一起騎驢,卻又被人罵不愛護牲畜,他們只好下來一起扛著驢走路,但是驢子消受不起,掙扎中掉進水裡淹死了。

今天,牽驢的人換成了蕭萬長。要怎麼凝聚共識達到目的地,就看他的政治智慧了。

〔圖片說明〕

P.28

兩岸協商時代來臨,談判高手蕭萬長由經貿部門轉戰陸委會,國人寄予極高期待。(薛繼光攝)

P.30

民國八十二年蕭萬長以總統特使身分參加在西雅圖舉行的亞太經合會,與各國領袖共聚一堂。(中央社提供)

P.33

「微笑老蕭」也有落淚的時刻。圖為蕭萬長由經濟部轉任經建會主委,在同仁為他舉辦的歡送茶會上離情依依的畫面,右拭淚者為其夫人朱俶賢。(董俊斐攝)

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近期文章

EN

Vincent Siew: Placed in a Tough Negotiating Position

Elaine Chen /tr. by Phil Newell

On the eve of this lunar new year, PRC President Jiang Zemin issued an eight-point statement regarding relations with Taiwan. Premier Lien Chan of the ROC responded to Jiang's statement. As a result, relations between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have entered the era of "discussion."

In addition, recently the government has been strongly pursuing entry into the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, has applied to host the Asian Games, and is laying out plans to turn Taiwan into an "Asia-Pacific Regional Operations Center." A key factor in whether or not these ideas can succeed is cross-strait relations.

Vincent Siew, the newly named chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, has served as head of several government economic and trade agencies, has vast experience in international negotiations, and is the originator of the "regional operations center" notion. Do these facts suggest that there will be a change in mainland policy in his tenure? Or will Siew simply continue the policies set by his predecessor Huang Kun-huei? Whatever the answers may be, Siew has become a center of media and public attention.


"Premier Lien has said that the axis of mainland policy will be trade and economic relations. To me this simply means that the axis will be Vincent Siew," says Wang Ming-yi, a senior reporter covering cross-strait affairs for the China Times.

To be sure, the element of last December's cabinet reshuffle that was most popular in the business community was Siew's transfer from the chairman-ship of the Council for Economic Planning and Development (CEPD) to the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC).

A number of leading businessmen, including Wang Yung-tsai of Formosa Plastics and Wang Ling-lin of the China Rebar Group, expressed "enthusiastic expectations" toward Siew. They felt that Siew would be able to use his trade and economics experience to inject new life into substantive economic relations across the Taiwan Strait.

"At the very least, he is very clear about everyone's needs, and he cannot pretend that he doesn't understand Taiwan's businessmen," says William Wu Shang, president of Chung Shing Textiles, with a laugh. Everyone remembers very clearly the things Siew has said to them in face-to-face meetings.

"Smiling Siew" perseveres

Vincent Siew has always had very close ties to the business community. When he was Minister of Economic Affairs, he was named in a public opinion poll as the government official with the closest links to the commercial sector.

In fact, entrepreneurs have long known about Siew's qualities. A number of years ago the then Minister of Economic Affairs Chao Yao-tung appointed Siew director-general of the Board of Foreign Trade (BOFT). It is said that Chao, who had no special personal relationship with Siew, selected him for this key post partly because "business people recommended him."

It's not very difficult to see why businessmen are so fond of Siew if you go back over his official career.

In December of 1978, the US unilaterally broke diplomatic relations with the ROC. In this time of crisis, Siew was assigned to go to the US where in only two weeks he negotiated and signed an emergency "Sino-American Trade Agreement," thus consolidating the foundation for the next ten years of economic prosperity in Taiwan.

Over the last couple of decades Siew has represented the ROC in negotiations nearly 100 times. Each time he returns home, the cameras catch an exhausted Vincent Siew: obviously much thinner, his features drawn from stress and lack of sleep.

Perhaps the moment that made the single greatest impression on people was after his return from negotiating the opening of Taiwan's market to turkey imported from the US. Dissatisfied local farmers pelted him with eggs. Yet through it all Siew just stood his ground and smiled. The image of "Smiling Siew" who could persevere through insults and accept heavy responsibilities was deeply imprinted in the minds of citizens. Later, as Minister of Economic Affairs, he went to Kaohsiung in person on many occasions to finally persuade local residents to accept construction of the Fifth Naphtha Cracker in their area. As chairman of the CEPD, he twice represented President Lee Teng-hui at meetings of the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (APEC), firmly establishing his status as an international economic leader.

"Now that Siew, an expert in negotiations and communication, is head of the MAC, people cannot help but wonder if President Lee's policy will change direction and become more open. Does it mean that mainland policy has entered a new stage, and that relations between the two sides will improve through discussions?" So ponders Chen Chung-shin, director of the Policy Research Center of the Democratic Progressive Party. The conservative image of former chairman Huang Kun-huei did not fit in with the idea of a more open policy, but that of "Smiling Siew," with his economic background, does.

No stranger to mainland affairs

"The shift from Huang Kun-huei to Vincent Siew suggests a major shift in policy," argues Wang Ming-yi. He points out that Siew brought with him to the MAC Fu Don-cheng, who was the executive secretary of the Ad Hoc Committee for Improvement of Economic and Social Legislation of the CEPD and the primary drafter on Siew's behalf of the regional operations center proposal. (Fu is now director of the Department of Economic Affairs at the MAC.) According to Wang, this indicates that the MAC and the CEPD are already two sides of the same coin. "The transfer of Vincent Siew has given the mainland a hint of change in Taiwan's policy. They have begun to respond in a very friendly manner. They chose this time to release Jiang's eight point statement," surmises Wang, drawing rather bold conclusions.

Leaving aside for the moment the accuracy of such assertions, at the very least we can say that the fact that Siew's appointment preceded Jiang's statement shows that Taiwan had already taken the initiative.

Yet, when Siew's appointment was first announced, not only did he feel somewhat nonplussed, his subordinates at the CEPD were also startled. "Chairman Siew was still in the middle of four major projects--the regional operations center plan, the application to GATT, the national pension proposal, and the mapping out of land use for the nation," says CEPD vice chairman H.H. Tsai. "Nevertheless, a nation must be able to rely on its overall system, and, in any case, the policies have for the most part already taken form. In his new post he should be able to make an even greater contribution to the country."

In fact, Siew--who began his career as a diplomat--is no stranger to cross-strait affairs. He studied international affairs in graduate school. Even before completing his studies he finished first on a special exam to enter the Foreign Ministry. So obviously he has a strong background in diplomacy and politics. After entering the realm of economic affairs, Siew--as director-general of the BOFT--first sounded out the business community, then devised the model of indirect trade between Taiwan and mainland China, and suggested to then-President Chiang Ching-kuo that it be implemented. Thereafter, Siew always attended ministerial meetings on mainland affairs, and, as chairman of the CEPD, he became a formal member of the Mainland Affairs Council.

Under the microscope

Nevertheless, despite high expectations that Siew would produce an early breakthrough, the situation took an unexpected turn.

Recently the third set of talks was held between Tang Shubei, vice-chairman of mainland China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), and Chiao Jen-ho of Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF, a semi-official body representing Taiwan in contacts with the mainland). It was expected that the talks would achieve some agreements, but instead they were broken off. Once again people began saying that "the Mainland Affairs Council [which gives the SEF its instructions] did not delegate enough authority to the SEF." Some in the media even criticized Siew by saying that he was merely following the old pattern set by Huang Kun-huei. Many in the business community assumed that they would rapidly achieve their cherished goal of direct travel and shipping between Taiwan and the mainland after Siew's assumption of the MAC chairmanship. But now they hear Siew intoning, "the guiding principle must be the nation's dignity and the well-being of our 21 million compatriots."

Has Vincent Siew changed?

"Cross-strait relations are after all not in the international realm. That, plus the fact that everything he says is placed under a microscope, has made him more cautious," says Paul Kuo-bao Chang, deputy director of the Department of Data and Information Services at the SEF.

Hu Fu-hsiung, who has been with Siew ever since the latter's days at the BOFT and who is now secretary to the chairman at the MAC, says that Siew seems different only because the nature of his role is different.

"You have to take into account the domestic, international, and Chinese Communist reactions in mainland policy. This policy will affect the well-being of 21 million people, so naturally Chairman Siew is being prudent. His role is no longer that of a pure technocrat, as it was when he was handling economic affairs."

This situation is more understandable when the nature of mainland policy is taken into account.

Peng Chui-ming, director of the Commercial Times, points out that the setting of mainland policy is a very complex process. The MAC cannot simply act based on economic considerations, but must finely balance the positions of all the actors. As everyone knows, President Lee is the final decision-maker on mainland policy, and the National Reunification Council and the National Security Council both have considerable influence. "Don't just look at Siew's close relations with the business community and his image as someone who communicates well, and then assume the posture will change. That is not possible."

Still no congruence between the two sides

Furthermore, there are great difficulties in developing mainland policy. Peng notes that the mainland has adopted a very rigid policy and attitude, so that even if Taiwan would prefer to engage in friendly exchanges, it is necessary to be reserved. "I think it will be difficult to have a major breakthrough. But this is not a vote of no-confidence in Vincent Siew's abilities, and in fact he is a very pragmatic official," he concludes.

"The reality of cross-strait relations is that they are very limited by the overall situation," says Shi Hwei-yow, deputy secretary-general of the SEF. The mainland has always adhered to the idea of "one country, two systems" (implying a single sovereignty in Beijing), while Taiwan has always proposed "one country, two areas" (implying divided nation status, as in Korea). Neither side finds the fundamental starting point of the other acceptable. Moreover, the two sides are concerned about different issue areas, so that the agendas of the two sides often do not fit. For example, Taiwan wants to discuss the repatriation of illegal immigrants from the mainland. In response, the mainland argues that the immigrants cross to Taiwan looking for work, and if Taiwan would simply legalize the hiring of mainland laborers, the problem of illegal immigration would disappear. They would thus rather talk about liberalizing restrictions against hiring mainland labor. "The two systems are different, we are concerned about different issues, and the fundamental way that each side sees itself and the other side is different. Moreover, in Taiwan there is the domestic division between those favoring independence and those favoring reunification. Therefore, it is impossible for cross-strait discussions to produce an out-come in the short run," cautions Shi.

But if it is really true that mainland policy will be about the same no matter who is in charge, then why go to all the trouble of shifting personnel? Is it possible that Siew's appointment has nothing more than symbolic meaning?

Faced with this question, Chairman Siew himself says that while the basic posture will not change, he hopes that more flexible methods can be adopted. For example, although it is still not possible to achieve direct travel, direct postal links, and direct shipping between the two sides, Siew has already asked the Ministry of Transportation and Communications to draw up a plan for an "offshore operations center." This would allow third party ships to transport products manufactured by Taiwanese firms in mainland China directly to designated ports, where they can be further processed and then re-exported.

Differences in personal style will also have an impact on the quality of decisions. Shi Hwei-yow, comparing the former and current chairmen, notes that Huang Kun-huei had his background in education. In meetings he emphasized broad discussion, which he would guide in hopes of bringing others around to his point of view. Siew works more quickly, exerts a greater degree of authority, and demands efficiency; he is more in the style of economic man. "Chairman Huang cooked slowly and let things stew, whereas Chairman Siew goes for high heat and pan frying. But either way the meat is the same."

Planning strategy behind the lines

The point deserving the greatest attention is this: With his vast international negotiating experience, in this "era of discussion" Vincent Siew can perhaps bring his skills to bear in mapping out strategy behind the lines.

"Perhaps in the future Chairman Siew will more thoroughly implement his personal negotiating ideas," suggests Shi. Over the past four years, there has been some progress in cross-strait relations, and it is necessary to digest and assess the cumulative experience of these years. In the past only the SEF was involved in negotiations, but now the organizational structure will become more overlapping. In the past, the SEF distinguished between negotiations at the levels of chairman, secretary-general, and vice-secretary-general, and the SEF official of a given level would only negotiate with a mainland counterpart at the same level. Now, in order to increase flexibility, there will not be hard and fast distinctions between the levels. Moreover, in the past there were only negotiations on limited issue areas. Now there will also be sub-units discussing economic and cultural affairs.

"There must be an overall strategy behind these plans in order to insure overall control and a firm grasp on developments," continues Shi. Siew is very experienced in this regard. You could say that Siew's appearance at this juncture--when cross-strait relations move into the era of discussion--is timely.

Vincent Siew certainly is well-known internationally for his negotiating skills. Michael Chang, currently deputy secretary-general of the Taiwan Textile Federation, should know: When Siew was deputy director-general of the BOFT, Chang served for six years as director of Siew's negotiating staff and participated with Siew in thirty rounds of international trade negotiations. In his view, "Mr. Siew is not sharp-edged or harsh; he is extremely cool and careful, always speaking mildly and never saying anything too severe."

Chang feels that this is essential to good negotiating. Only by keeping his or her wits can the negotiator coolly observe the counterpart's position, concepts, demands, and offers, and even sniff out the other side's minimum acceptable bottom line. Siew is very willing to seek out extra chances- -such as after-session meals--to clarify things for the other side. He uses a soft approach to break deadlocks. Moreover, because he has built up an image over many years as a man of reason, his counterparts are very willing to talk with him; there have even been cases of the other side asking for him by name to negotiate particularly sensitive issues. He is able to make friends with his counterparts once they leave the negotiating table. These informal interpersonal relationships are very important to Taiwan, which lacks formal diplomatic ties with most nations. Sometimes when the other side's position is especially rigid, Siew has gone through alternate channels to clarify his position and to moderate the other side's antagonism. "When the other side is willing to coolly hear out our difficulties, then it becomes much easier to reach an agreement."

Negotiating with a cross to bear

In fact, the image Siew gives of being able to ignore insults while handling heavy responsibilities is a trait developed in him through negotiations.

Michael Chang recalls one occasion when he, Siew, and Lin Yi-fu (the current director-general of the BOFT) went to Geneva for the Sino-American trade negotiations. At that time the Americans put forth extremely rigorous conditions, and took a very hard line: Either accept the conditions, or we'll abrogate our bilateral agreement. When the day's talks were over, the three strolled along the lake in a state of anger and sadness. How should they respond?

Chang still remembers very clearly what Siew said at that time. "If we reject the conditions, we'll be greeted as heroes by the media. They'll say we have spine, and would not accept an insult to the nation. But it would be a serious blow to the international reputation of the ROC to lose the agreement with the US. Moreover, an absence of order in the export of textiles would be bad for local industry. If we break off talks now and then try to reenter negotiations with the US later, we will be in an even worse position."

With these considerations in mind, notes Chang, the problem became how to extract the best possible terms for Taiwan within the framework of the American conditions. In the end, the negotiating team gave up things that Taiwan really didn't need, but in return got to keep some things that were very important to local industries.

"As a negotiator, you absolutely cannot think of your personal image and expect to be applauded as a hero. You can only present your case well, and feel that you have made a contribution to the country, and give yourself a pat on the back. You always have a heavy cross to bear," says Chang.

Today, Siew is in the process of making requests of the SEF based on his own ideas about negotiating. He says that there is in fact no problem about how much power the SEF should have delegated to it: "The function of the SEF is to do only what it has been given the authority to do, nothing more. Negotiators should report to those in charge about what is happening on the front line, and those in charge will make the decisions. But negotiators should never promote their own views."

In fact, this is perfectly acceptable to the SEF. Secretary-General Chiao Jen-ho says that people in the SEF feel they can rely on Siew's fast-paced style. Shi Hwei-yow says that the SEF is empowered by the government to undertake negotiations; since they are working at the government's behest, naturally they should loyally follow what the government tells them to do.

But Siew, with his wealth of experience, knows that he must look after the interests of both sides. On the one hand, he has been strengthening discipline in the SEF, but on the other he is allowing the SEF to participate in the MAC's task force on cultural and educational affairs, in order to strengthen ties between the two agencies.

Father and son riding a mule

It seems that Siew has already taken preliminary steps to better coordinate the SEF and the MAC. But he has a still greater challenge before him.

"Right now there are two major parties plus a significant smaller third party in Taiwan. We cannot be like the mainland, where they rely on whatever Deng Xiaoping has decided. There is always 'background noise' on our side. In the past the MAC always played of the role of keeping its foot on the brake. For the future, one of the biggest challenges for the MAC will be to build a consensus and play a mediating role," says Chen Chung-shin of the DPP. For example, if the government and opposition parties do not communicate routinely, but simply adopt extreme positions at election time and then let the voters decide, this could be very destabilizing.

There is certainly a great deal of controversy over mainland policy in Taiwan. The MAC often takes public opinion polls before implementing a particular policy initiative. It is said that, typically, one-third of the public will disagree with the proposed policy. Once, disappointed with this result, they asked people their views on the exact opposite policy, and again one-third disapproved!

It is like the story of the father and son riding the mule: A father and son brought a mule to sell in the market. Along the way, a bystander ridiculed them for having a mule but not riding it. So the father got on the mule. However, a woman then reprimanded him for not loving his son. The son then got on the mule, only to be accused by yet another onlooker of lacking in filial piety. Then they both got on the mule, but were again reprimanded for being cruel to animals. Finally, with no other options, they strapped the mule to a pole and carried it over their shoulders. But the mule could not stand it, and struggling to free itself, it fell into the water and drowned.

Today, the reins of the mule have been put in Vincent Siew's hands. He will have to rely on a great deal of political wisdom to build a consensus and reach the destination.

[Picture Caption]

p.28

With the approach of the "era of discussion" between Taiwan and mainland China, the transfer of expert negotiator Vincent Siew from the Council for Economic Planning and Development (CEPD) to the Mainland Affairs Council has created new expectations among the public. (photo by Hsueh Chi-kuang)

p.30

In 1993, Siew attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference in Seattle as a special ambassador of President Lee Teng-hui, and participated in meetings with the leaders of various nations. (photo courtesy of the Central News Agency)

p.33

"Smiling Siew" also has his moments of tears. The photo shows Siew at a send-off party held for him by his colleagues in the CEPD. At right is his wife Chu Shu-hsien. (photo by Tung Chun-fei)

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