December 17, 2009

Reunification Watch: China-Taiwan Trade Talks Next Week

Preliminary talks on trade issues between Beijing and Taipei will occur during Christmas week. The meetings are expected to determine a timeframe for formal talks on the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement or ECFA. ECFA could be a limited free trade agreement and sweep away decades of restrictions between Chinese investors on both sides of the contentious Taiwan Straits. The ever vocal opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on Taiwan is spinning a thunderous media cycle claiming ECFA would cost millions of jobs and end Taiwan's independence. But even American allies of the DPP admit a trade agreement would diffuse the dangerous tensions and military buildup in the region.

I fully expect ECFA to happen in some form well before 2012 the year of Beijing's Communist Party congress and Taiwan's next presidential election. And once it does come to pass it will be high time for the US federal government to honor its commitment in the Sino-US joint communique of 17 August 1982 and end arms sales to Taiwan. The recent bruhaha on both sides of the Straits over the discovery of a Chinese blogger that the Obama administration is possibly pushing United Technologies sale of Blackhawk helicopters to Taipei is a perfect example of how 27 years later the US continues to fan flames in the region.

The 1982 communique says:

6. Having in mind the foregoing statements of both sides, the United States Government states that it does not seek to carry out a long-term policy of arms sales to Taiwan, that its arms sales to Taiwan will not exceed, either in qualitative or in quantitative terms, the level of those supplied in recent years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and China, and that it intends to reduce gradually its sales of arms to Taiwan, leading over a period of time to a final resolution. In so stating, the United States acknowledges China's consistent position regarding the thorough settlement of this issue.

7. In order to bring about, over a period of time, a final settlement of the question of United States arms sales to Taiwan, which is an issue rooted in history, the two governments will make every effort to adopt measures and create conditions conducive to the thorough settlement of this issue.

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