Minister of Economic Affairs Yiin Chii-ming (尹啟銘) said yesterday that he and Chinese Minister of Commerce Chen Deming (陳德銘) had agreed to initiate official cross-strait talks on an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) in October.
The ministry would make public an assessment report on the ECFA deal on Wednesday Yiin said. The two sides of the Taiwan Strait would conduct a joint study over the next two months on the proposed pact before official negotiations begin, he said.
His comments came after he met Chen and discussed the ECFA issue for the first time this week in Singapore on the sidelines of a two-day APEC forum there.
“Due to the strong willingness on both sides … The official discussion can be completed sometime before the end of this year,” he said.
If possible, the official talks might be completed in October or November so the actual signing of the framework document could take place during the next “Chiang-Chen” meeting, he said.
However, signing an ECFA “is not an issue that can be decided by Taiwan only,” he said.
The “Chiang-Chen” meetings are the negotiations between Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) and his Chinese counterpart, Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林). The pair have met three times since last November. The exact time and place of a fourth meeting are under discussion.
Asked if the next “Chiang-Chen meeting” would touch on the ECFA issue, Yiin said he had no comment because the ministry doesn’t have the authority to speak for other government agencies.
In Singapore, Chen Deming “agreed to Taiwan’s three-step process in dealing with the ECFA issue, as well as Taiwan’s request of inclusion of an ‘early harvest clause’ in the pact,” Yiin said.
The three-step process refers to independent research on ECFA by both sides, which took place during the first half of this year, the ensuing three to nine months of joint study on the issue and then the official negotiations.
The two sides have held two private meetings on ECFA, which were crucial to reaching consensus, Yiin said, while the third meeting would be a formal process where officials would address sensitive commercial issues.
Under the proposed ECFA, the manufacturing sector would be included in the early harvest clause, but Yiin could not reveal which businesses would be involved.
In other news, Yiin dismissed speculations that government-led Taiwan Memory Co (TMC, 台灣記憶體公司) had failed to set an example in restructuring the local dynamic random access memory sector. He said TMC’s plan to rebuild the industry in Taiwan was on schedule.