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China’s termination of ECFA tariff reductions on some products highlights attempt to use economic coercion to interfere in Taiwan’s democratic election

  • Date:2023-12-21
  • Data Source:Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of China (Taiwan)

December 21, 2023  

No. 449  

With less than a month to go before polling day in Taiwan’s presidential election, China has announced the termination of tariff reduction arrangements on some products under the Cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA). The timing of the announcement is clearly intended to suppress the Taiwanese people’s freedom of choice and use economic coercion to steer Taiwan’s democratic vote in a direction that suits China. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) urges the international community to express serious concern and strongly condemn this blatant attempt to interfere in Taiwan’s elections. 

Instead of entering negotiations on trade measures that have been in place for many years since China and Taiwan joined the World Trade Organization, China unilaterally launched a trade investigation into Taiwan this April, on the day that Taiwan’s ruling party announced its candidate for the upcoming presidential election. The deadline for completion of the investigation “coincidentally” fell on the day before polling day. On December 15, China’s Ministry of Commerce announced the results of the investigation ahead of the deadline. China’s Taiwan Affairs Office claimed the policies of the “DPP authorities” contravened their obligations, and it suggested that the two sides “negotiate a solution to trade issues on the basis of the 1992 consensus.” Pointing the finger at a specific political party and pushing a particular political position that is not accepted by most Taiwanese people constituted a flagrant attempt to interfere in Taiwan’s elections.

Taiwan’s government has already made preparations that will effectively limit the impact of this effort to interfere in its democratic process through economic coercion. MOFA calls on the international community to be keenly aware of the risks involved in economic exchanges with China. China’s tendency to weaponize trade relations highlights the need to accelerate economic de-risking strategies and underlines the importance of international cooperation to counter economic coercion, because any democratic country—not just Taiwan—could be a victim. (E)