Taiwan will sign agreements with China to collaborate on finance and reducing crime, but will not sign a free-trade agreement any time soon, a senior official said.
Minister of Economic Affairs (MOEA) Yiin Chii-ming (尹啟銘) said Taiwan must sign a free-trade agreement with China or risk a further decline in exports as regional trade blocs become the global norm. Taiwan’s exports have fallen more than 40 percent year-on-year in the past two months.
Mainland Affairs Council Vice Chairman Fu Dong-cheng (傅棟成) told reporters on Tuesday that the sides would work to set up Taiwanese bank and brokerage branches in China, but that the two countries would not establish a free-trade pact in the first half of this year.
“We will discuss the agreement with China only after the Taiwanese public has reached a consensus on the issue,” Fu said.
The proposed agreement has come in for heavy criticism from the opposition, which sees it as a possible precursor to unification. The government denies the agreement has any political component.
The issues will be formally agreed at the next round of bilateral talks in the first half of this year, Fu said. A date has not been set for the talks.
Asked about Taiwanese criticism of the proposed agreement, a spokeswoman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office insisted it was purely an economic arrangement that stood to benefit both sides.
“What we say is, economics is economics, and there’s no need to do too much analysis from the political perspective,” Fan Liqing (范麗青) said at a regularly scheduled news briefing in Beijing yesterday.
Still, experts say China is expected to embrace any trade pact with Taipei because it sees closer economic ties with Taiwan as a step toward eventual political union.
Fu also said the two countries would cooperate to clamp down on crime, but did not provide specifics. Mainland Affairs Council Vice Chairman Liu Te-shun (劉德勳) had said earlier this month that they would exchange information to aid investigations.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) hopes to forge closer commercial ties with China to help boost Taiwan’s economy. Since taking office last May, he has moved aggressively to relax controls on trade and investment with China.