得失之間

──ECFA的進退玄機
:::

2010 / 1月

文‧張瓊方


「ECFA是帶刺的玫瑰;同一朵玫瑰,樂觀的人看到花,悲觀的人卻看到刺。」


這是行政院長吳敦義對「兩岸經濟合作架構」(ECFA)的形容。他並矢言,面對ECFA,政府會「看到花也看到刺;看到機會也看到風險」,各部門將攜手努力,使利益極大化、將衝擊極小化。

的確,唯有去除民眾疑懼,支持政府勇敢伸手摘下這一朵花,台灣才有機會嘗到企盼已久的果實──再一次的經濟成長與蛻變。

在民進黨高舉「破黑箱、顧飯碗」的抗議聲中,第4次「江陳會」如期於12月22日在台中市登場。

繼前3次「江陳會」簽署了9項協議、1項共識後,第4次江陳會將就「漁業勞務合作」、「產品標準認證」、「農產品檢驗檢疫」等3項協議,進行最後的確認與簽署。

然而,並未列入此次議題、更遑論完成簽署的「兩岸經濟合作架構」(ECFA),卻被綠營視為繼「美國牛肉開放進口」後的又一大政治箭靶,不僅窮追猛打,甚至祭出「10萬人遊街」、「活捉陳雲林」的聳動口號,讓第4次江陳會完全失焦,也達到了牽制馬政府兩岸政策的目的。

究竟,ECFA是什麼?它真有那麼難懂嗎?風險真的大到難以控制嗎?不妨來看看。

(一)為什麼要和中國簽署「ECFA」?

從今(2010)年開始,東協與中國的自由貿易協定即將上路,未來雙方將互享貨品進出免關稅的優惠,這將使台灣貨品出口到這兩個地區時,遭遇強大且不公平的競爭。

因此簽署ECFA的最主要目的,就是讓台灣商品也取得「免稅」進入中國市場(佔台灣總出口市場4成)的優惠,以免廠商未戰先輸。而兩岸簽署後,台灣要想突破中國阻撓、進一步與其他國家簽署「自由貿易協定」(FTA),或許就比較容易了。

(二)簽署ECFA後,誰來幫勞工「顧飯碗」?

任何貿易協定都強調有取有捨的「對等」關係,台灣商品若想免稅進入大陸,相對地也必須付出對大陸開放市場、並提高大陸產品免稅比例的代價。(至於農產品,目前台灣堅守不開放立場,大陸亦展現配合誠意,故可延至後期再協商討論。)

簽訂ECFA後,目前台灣出口大陸的主力產業,如鋼鐵、塑化、機械、紡織等大型產業,將成為主要受益者;而受大陸產品進口衝擊的,則以內銷型傳統產業為主,如毛巾、襪子、磁磚、鞋類等。出口獲利、內銷倒楣,「把你的快樂建築在我的痛苦上」的不平之鳴,導致ECFA爭議不斷。

簽署ECFA是否會促使中小企業棄守遷廠、加重台灣的失業狀況?正反說法都有。勞委會主委王如玄認為,任何經濟政策的影響都是長遠的,就個別產業分開看,有利有弊,「但整體而言,就業機會一定會增加。」

執行勞委會委託研究的台大農業經濟系主任徐世勳推估,兩岸若不簽ECFA,東協與中、日、韓3國的貿易協定陸續上路後,台灣將減少4萬7,000個工作機會;若能簽署ECFA,則可增加10萬5,000∼12萬5,000個就業機會,尤以中低階服務業影響最大。

儘管如此,一旦簽署,部分產業將首當其衝,這也是政府要優先保護的對象。

勞委會主委王如玄表示,勞委會將全力捍衛勞工權益,除了「絕不開放大陸勞工來台工作」外,也將全力避免敏感型產業(如上述毛巾、磁磚等)列入ECFA的「早期收穫清單」(即逐年降稅清單),為產業、勞工爭取更寬裕的喘息及轉型空間。

此外,政府也編列了950億元預算,以10年為期,輔導敏感型產業及勞工轉型、轉業,其中半數經費用以保護勞工,並已擬定「臨時工作津貼」、「生活津貼」、「租屋津貼」等10大「轉業協助」措施,希望將勞工的衝擊減到最低。

(三)ECFA將導致台灣對大陸依賴更深?

台聯主席黃昆輝即批評,兩岸簽署ECFA是「自殺政策」,將把台灣導向「中國單一市場」,加深台灣對中國的依賴。

這份疑慮,也反映在一般民眾心中,天下雜誌9月號「誰怕中國?」專題指出,「工作」和「主權」分居台灣民眾「大陸恐懼症」的前兩名。

受訪的兩千多名民眾中,有高達75%的人擔心自己的工作被大陸人搶走,70%的人則憂慮「主權」受傷,最害怕的則是「台灣經濟只能靠大陸」。

以目前大陸是台灣第一大市場、也是第一大生產基地來看,這個害怕似乎有理,只是就現實而言,大陸已是全亞洲甚至全球的經濟火車頭,即使扁政府信誓旦旦「反中」,也無力阻止兩岸貿易額的大幅增長(過去10年,兩岸貿易增長了16.3倍,對美只增長24%、對日73%)。

正如中華經濟研究院副院長王健全所說,就大陸的立場而言,簽署ECFA必然帶有「框住台灣,反對獨立」的意圖,但台商也可以利用ECFA來強化競爭優勢、佈局全球,反向擺脫「走不出中國手掌心」的困局。

馬英九總統也多次表示,兩岸之所以必須簽署ECFA,是希望能藉此加入區域整合,跟主要貿易夥伴簽署自由貿易協定(FTA)。放眼整個亞太地區,目前還沒有跟其他國家簽署任何FTA的,只剩下台灣和北韓!台灣要想避免被邊緣化,就必須放下好惡情緒,「直搗核心」、從大陸突破起,否則一切都是空談。

(四) 談判內容到底是什麼?

根據104人力銀行「2010職場關鍵事件大報告」的網路調查結果,兩岸簽署ECFA,是上班族最關心的3大事件之一。值得玩味的是,上班族對ECFA的「威脅感」普遍強過企業,認為「威脅多過機會」的上班族高達44.4%,企業則為34.5%。而過度政治操作、謠言恫嚇滿天飛、無法獲得確切資訊,則是導致民眾「恐慌」的原因。

根據天下雜誌12月初所做的2010年國情調查,對於ECFA,有高達67%的受訪民眾表示「不瞭解或完全不瞭解」,自認瞭解的僅佔3成。

在多數人都不瞭解的情況下,政黨傾向卻壁壘分明,85%藍營支持者認為簽署ECFA對台灣有利,認為有利的綠營支持者則只有18%。

大體而言,政府的文宣做得不夠,也未能開誠布公告訴民眾,究竟ECFA的簽署與否可能產生哪些正負面影響。而現階段無法「講清楚說明白」,部分原因是兩軍交鋒時,沒有人會在上談判桌前就「亮出底牌」,部分原因則是未進入正式磋商談判前,一切都尚在未定之天。

只是,反對者一面要求執政團隊「拿出具體內容後再來『向人民報告』」,一邊又堅持「沒有『向人民報告前』,不准私下進行兩岸協商」,對前線作戰的談判官員而言,已造成進退維谷的困局。

ECFA最後是否能照我方預期的方向發展,目前仍言之過早。但無論如何,ECFA是讓台灣進入東亞區域架構、取得公平競爭資格的敲門磚,而進入之後,得失如何?那就要看台灣本身的投資環境和經濟實力了。

就如同副總統蕭萬長所言:「ECFA是『一帖補藥』,將好處發揮到最大,害處減到最少,就能讓台灣『脫胎換骨』!」

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EN

Gains and Losses-The Give and Take of the ECFA

Chang Chiung-fang /tr. by Scott Williams

"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.

1. Why should Taiwan sign an ECFA with China?

When the China-ASEAN free-trade agreement (FTA) comes into force in 2010, tariff-free trade between the two entities will place Taiwanese exports to both at a severe disadvantage.

Taiwan's main goal with the ECFA is to protect its manufacturers by winning tariff-free access to the Chinese market for Taiwanese goods. (The mainland market currently accounts for some 40% of Taiwanese exports.) Once the two sides sign, Taiwan may also find it easier to sidestep Chinese obstructions to its negotiation of FTAs with other nations.

2. Who will protect workers' livelihoods once the ECFA is signed?

All trade agreements are built around reciprocal relationships. If Taiwanese goods are to enter the mainland tariff-free, reciprocity requires that we open up our own market and increase the number of mainland goods granted tariff-free status. (Vis-a-vis agricultural goods, with Taiwan continuing to resist opening its market to mainland imports and the mainland being patient, negotiations on this issue can be put off for a time.)

Basically, ECFA is expected to benefit Taiwanese exporters and harm manufacturers for the domestic market. Taiwan's major exporters to the mainland-the steel, plastic, machine tools, and textiles industries-will be the greatest beneficiaries. Domestic-demand manufacturers such as makers of towels, hosiery, ceramic tiles, and footwear are likely to be the biggest losers. It is this inequity, this building of one industry's prosperity on the suffering of another, that has driven the endless contention over the ECFA.

Will signing the ECFA encourage large numbers of small and medium-sized enterprises to relocate production to the mainland, and so increase Taiwan's unemployment rate? Disagreement abounds. Wang Ju-hsuan, minister of the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA), believes that economic policy needs to be understood in terms of its long-term impact. While some individual businesses and industries will benefit, others will suffer. "But," she argues, "it will in aggregate increase employment."

Hsu Shih-hsun is the chairman of the Department of Agricultural Economics at National Taiwan University and does research for the CLA. He predicts that if Taiwan fails to sign the ECFA, ASEAN's free-trade agreements with China, Japan, and Korea will cost us 47,000 jobs. He further predicts that signing the ECFA will create 105,000-125,000 new jobs, with the greatest impact coming for low- and middle-income workers in the service sector.

But some industries will suffer as a result of the agreement, and the government has made their protection a priority.

Wang says that the CLA will do its utmost to uphold the rights of workers. In addition to "absolutely not permitting mainland Chinese laborers to work in Taiwan," the CLA will strive to prevent sensitive industries (such as towels and ceramic tiles) from being included on the ECFA's "early harvest" list (a list of industries to have their tariffs gradually reduced), and to provide businesses and workers with more time to adapt.

The government will also budget NT$95 billion over 10 years to help workers and businesses transition into new fields. It plans to spend half of this money on protecting workers, and has already settled on 10 major assistance measures, including allowances for temporary work, living expenses, and rent intended to minimize the agreement's impact on laborers.

3. Will the ECFA make Taiwan more dependent on mainland China?

Huang Kunhui, chairman of the Taiwan Solidarity Union, is critical of the ECFA. He argues that it constitutes a suicide pact that orients Taiwan solely towards the Chinese market, worsening Taiwan's dependency on China.

These doubts are echoed by the general public. A piece entitled "Should Taiwan Fear the Dragon" in the September issue of CommonWealth magazine pointed out that the issues of "work" and "sovereignty" were major components of the Taiwanese public's "Sinophobia."

The magazine surveyed more than 2000 individuals for the article and found that 75% feared losing their jobs to mainlanders, while 70% worried about damage to Taiwan's sovereignty. Their greatest fear, however, was that Taiwan's economy would become totally dependent upon the mainland.

With the mainland currently ranking both as Taiwan's biggest market and its biggest manufacturing base, this fear does not appear unreasonable. But mainland China is now inarguably the economic locomotive of Asia, and perhaps of the world. Even the Chen administration, which was dedicated to opposing China, was powerless to halt the rapid growth in cross-strait trade. Over the past 10 years, Taiwanese trade with China has increased 1,630%, versus increases of just 24% and 73% in trade with the US and Japan, respectively.

As Wang Jiann-chyuan, vice president of the Chung-Hwa Institution for Economic Research, has said, signing the ECFA necessarily implies "a boxing in of Taiwan and opposition to independence." But Taiwanese businesses can avoid getting stuck in China if they use the ECFA to enhance their competitive superiority and extend their global reach.

President Ma Ying-jeou has repeatedly stated that China and Taiwan need to sign the ECFA so that Taiwan can participate in regional integration and establish FTAs with its major trading partners. Taiwan and North Korea are currently the only two nations in the Asia-Pacific region that do not participate in such FTAs. If Taiwan is to avoid marginalization, it must get over its likes and dislikes and deal directly with China.

What is being negotiated?

An online survey by 104 Job Bank for its report on key issues for the 2010 job market showed that office workers considered the signing of the ECFA one their three greatest concerns. In fact, office workers felt even more threatened by the ECFA than businesses did-while 44.4% of office workers believed that the ECFA was more of a threat than an opportunity, only 34.5% of businesses felt this way.

This fear has been fed by an abundance of political machinations, implied threats, and dubious information. An early December survey by CommonWealth on national sentiment for 2010 showed that 67% of respondents "didn't understand or didn't fully understand" the ECFA. Only 30% claimed to understand the agreement.

With the majority of the public not understanding the agreement, support instead breaks down along party lines. Some 85% of the supporters of the KMT and its allies believe the ECFA will benefit Taiwan. Only 18% of supporters of the DPP and its allies feel the same way.

Overall, the government has done too little to explain the ECFA. It still cannot plainly state the likely costs and benefits of signing versus not signing the agreement. Part of the reason for this state of affairs is that the government doesn't want to show its cards before negotiations get underway. Another part is that with formal negotiations still pending, everything remains up in the air.

But the opposition wants the government team to report the actual contents of the agreement to the public, while insisting that there be no secret cross-strait talks prior to making such a report. The acceptance of such conditions would put negotiators in a real bind.

It's still too early to say whether the ECFA will develop as expected. In any case, the agreement remains an expedient means of accessing the East Asian regional framework and fair competition. What will Taiwan gain by signing? What will we lose? That's going to depend on the investment climate in Taiwan and our own economic strength.

As Vice President Vincent Siew has said: "The ECFA is a tonic. By maximizing its strengths and minimizing its weaknesses, we can revitalize Taiwan.

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