The government should not sign a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) with China without the social consensus of the Taiwanese public, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said yesterday.
Tsai made the remark after a local media report quoted National Security Council Secretary-General Su Chi (蘇起) as having said the government would sign a CECA with China and that negotiations with China on the issue would begin through the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF).
The government should be “more prudent” about the issue as it would affect the country’s economy and politics, Tsai said, urging the government to inform and convince the public of its purpose.
If the government signed a CECA without the consensus of the people, it would have a negative impact on society, Tsai said.
Tsai said the signing of the CECA would involve delicate political issues that might cause serious social conflict in Taiwan if the government does not seek public approval.
The discussion and evaluation of the feasibility of signing a CECA should be conducted in a transparent manner, Tsai said, adding that this would be the “only way” to let Taiwanese understand how the agreement would affect the nation economically, socially and politically.
Industry and business groups have been pushing for the government to forge closer economic links with China by signing a CECA and to quickly liberalize cross-strait trade through measures such as the removal of tariffs.
On Friday, the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) said in a press statement that it had been closely monitoring the formation of a regional economic bloc that includes ASEAN and its neighboring trade partners China, Japan and South Korea.
The MOEA said that Taiwanese exporters would face tough challenges when the “ASEAN plus one” — ASEAN and China — free trade zone goes into operation next year. Therefore, the government has been seeking free trade agreements (FTAs) with major trading partners and has spared no effort in devising strategies to combat its exclusion from the regional economic bloc, the ministry said.
Amid some doubt in Taiwan regarding the CECA, the ministry said it would conduct a study on how such an agreement could be achieved without sacrificing the overall interests of local industrial sectors.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has sought to build closer economic ties with China, drawing strong criticism from some quarters.
Taiwan Solidarity Union Chairman Huang Kun-huei (黃昆輝) has said that the proposed CECA with China would force Taiwan to follow the Hong Kong and Macau model, making Taiwan subordinate to Beijing.