President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday promised to make good on his campaign promises, stressing that if a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement were signed between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, there would be no influx of Chinese workers, imports of agricultural products from China would not increase and Chinese students would not be permitted to obtain professional licenses in Taiwan.
Ma made the remarks in an interview with the Taipei Times.
While it was important to normalize the nation’s trade and economic relationship with China, normalization did not necessarily mean allowing Chinese workers or more Chinese agricultural products to enter the domestic market, nor would Chinese students be permitted to sit national examinations to obtain professional licenses, Ma said.
As the ASEAN Plus One cooperation framework is set to take effect soon, Ma said it was important to ink a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement with China, but promised to take the interests of domestic industries into consideration should such a pact be signed.
The president said his administration welcomed suggestions concerning the content of the pact and its format, but ruled out holding a referendum to solicit public consensus on the issue.
“A referendum is one option, but it is not the only option,” he said. “It is time-consuming and expensive.”
Ma said that a referendum would cost an estimated NT$300 million (US$8.8 million) to NT$500 million, and also take time to publicize.
More importantly, he said, the thresholds for a referendum are so high that not many referendums had succeeded in the past.
“If the government were to hold a referendum to decide every major policy, it would be very hard for the government to operate,” he said.
“We simply cannot hold a referendum because some people are against a government initiative,” Ma said.
Opinion polls might be a better solution, as long as they were conducted in a modern and scientific manner, Ma said.
More than one opinion poll would have to be conducted by different institutions over a period of time, he said.
Once a cooperation agreement with China has been signed, Ma said, it should proceed to the legislature for approval.
Article 5 of the Act Governing Relations between the Peoples of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (台灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例) states that all treaties that require legal revision or legislation must be reviewed by the legislature. Those that do not require revision or legislation must be ratified by the legislature.
Ma said he had no problem inking the agreement under the “one China” framework, because “one China” refers to the Republic of China (ROC), the official title of Taiwan.
Asked whether his interpretation conformed to the international reality, Ma said: “If we do not interpret it this way, do you think we should say the ‘one China’ refers to the People’s Republic of China?”
That is the only interpretation according to the ROC Constitution, he said.
Asked whether the ROC Constitution was still suitable for Taiwan, Ma said: “Of course it is,” adding that it had been amended seven times and there was no doubt that the ROC Constitution cannot be implemented in China.
However, Ma acknowledged that not many countries felt the same way.
“As long as there are 23 countries that recognize us, and we also have substantive ties with other countries, we can survive,” he said.