Amid intensifying political opposition at home, the government plans to release a cross-strait free-trade study by Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research (中經院) in the middle of this month, Minister of Economic Affairs Yiin Chii-ming (尹啟銘) said yesterday.
Yiin said that when the ministry publicizes the economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) study, “the two sides will be ready to engage in meaningful academic dialogue to discuss cross-strait collaboration both through official as well as unofficial channels.”
Yiin did not reveal a timetable for the signing of the trade pact.
But Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs John Deng (鄧振中) told the Taiwan Foreign Correspondents’ Club yesterday that Taiwan and China were in informal talks at an “academic level” on preparing the ECFA.
“We hope that we can start the formal process as soon as possible,” Deng said at the briefing. “We are ready, it’s Beijing; if they want to talk, we can talk.”
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said in May he hoped to sign an ECFA with China to ease restrictions on trade. The agreement may be similar to an accord China has with Hong Kong, which waives tariffs and gives preferential market access to its financial industry.
“There are informal exchanges of views on the academic level,” Deng said.
While Taiwan has requested formal talks, the timing has not been decided, he said.
Since Ma took office in May last year, the issue of signing an ECFA as well as Ma’s pro-China policies have been a subject of contention between the ruling and opposition parties.
On Tuesday, the ministry said it would open 100 sectors in the manufacturing industry, service industry and public infrastructure to Chinese investment.
To block the progress of the government’s proposed trade pact with China, as well as to jump- start its preparations for the year-end elections, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) plans to host more than 500 grassroots tea parties throughout the nation starting this month, ,the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) reported yesterday.
Taiwan will hold elections for country and city government heads and councilors before the end of year, presenting a crucial opportunity for the DPP to regain power.
The newspaper said the DPP had collected more than 136,000 signatures calling for a public referendum on ECFA. The party said it would continue to build opposition momentum by exposing the negative impacts an ECFA would have on employment opporturnities and the local business sector.