Tue, Feb 24, 2009 - Page 12 News List

Business leaders bat for CECA

‘NOT POLITICS’ Several business groups argued that without a CECA, Taiwan could lose its competitiveness when an ASEAN and China free-trade pact goes into effect

BY Jerry Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Several business leaders said yesterday that the government should sign a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) with China as soon as possible to avoid the local economy from being marginalized.

Far Eastern Group (遠東集團) chairman Douglas Hsu (徐旭東) told a business breakfast meeting that tariffs were an important reason why the government should speed up the inking of such a pact with China.

Once the ASEAN Plus One comes into force next year, a free trade zone linking ASEAN and China will go into operation, which could drag down Taiwan’s textile industry — including his own Far Eastern Textile Corp (遠東紡織) — should the two sides fail to sign a CECA.

However, as many academics and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) still oppose a CECA for fear that Taiwan would become like “Hong Kong” or part of China, Hsu said the government should work harder to clarify the differences between a CECA and the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) signed between the territory and China.

“The opposition party should also carefully study what a CECA is, not politicize the issue,” Hsu said.

Morris Chang (張忠謀), chairman of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (台積電), the world’s largest contract chipmaker, said yesterday that as the WTO’s Doha Round talks had collapsed, a regional trade agreement was needed in today’s environment.

“The problem lies in the name — CECA — but the content of the agreement should be beneficial to both sides [of the Taiwan Strait] as it is similar to an FTA [free trade agreement],” Chang said, adding that Taipei and Beijing should arrive at a name that both sides could accept.

Chang Ping-chao (張平沼), chairman of the General Chamber of Commerce (全國商業總會), said that Taiwan could lose its export competitiveness if a CECA were not signed, because it would be hard for the nation’s exporters to sell their products to Southeast Asia if its tariffs were higher.

“This agreement has to be signed, or else Taiwan’s economy will be marginalized,” Chang said.

Theodore Huang (黃茂雄), chairman of the Chinese National Association of Industry and Commerce (工商協進會), which organized yesterday’s breakfast gathering, said the inking of CECA was one of the options.

“In terms of the FTA issue, the key is to not let Taiwan’s exports encounter barriers,” Huang said.

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