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WSJ editorial highlights Ma's policy but also his incapability

The Ma Ying-jeou administration recently enjoyed a rare moment of vindication. In an editorial entitled “Taiwan Leaves Itself Behind” published on Aug. 4, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) argued that the consequences of Taiwan's “resisting freer trade and economic reform are becoming clear.”

Using a talking point often raised by the Ma administration, the editorial pointed out that Taiwan is losing out to its regional competitor South Korea as free trade talks between the latter and mainland China are in the final stages, while a cross-strait trade pact is still stuck in the R.O.C. Legislature.

“If the deal goes through as expected, roughly 2 percent to 5 percent of all of Taiwan's exports to China could be replaced by South Korean products, according to the (Taiwanese) Ministry of Economic Affairs,” the editorial highlighted.

“Meanwhile, Taiwan's latest trade pact with China signed last year sits in limbo after the student-led 'Sunflower Movement' stymied its ratification by the legislature this spring,” the WSJ pointed out. Describing the protesters as stoking “anxieties that Taiwan is in danger of being swallowed up by China,” the editorial concluded that “placing obstacles in the way of trade and investment won't solve the problem.”

Not surprisingly, President Ma praised the editorial, saying it is harsh and “straight to the point.” He cited the article in his argument that lawmakers should pass the controversial bill to monitor cross-strait negotiations and ratify the trade-in-services agreement with China (the trigger for the “Sunflower Movement” protests).

Commentators supporting opposition parties, on the other hand, moved to criticize the editorial. In his article published on news website The Diplomat, J. Michael Cole, a contributor to the English-language website owned by Democratic Progressive Party Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen's Thinking Taiwan Foundation, criticized the arguments in the WSJ editorial as neither striking nor fresh. The editorial, he wrote, “could have been written by an official in the Ma Ying-jeou administration.”

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