Taipei Times: Do you think Taiwan is a normal country?
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九): The Taiwanese people elect their own president and legislature and govern themselves. Do you think that is normal or not normal?
TT: International recognition is also an important factor in defining a country.
Ma: Taiwan has 23 diplomatic allies and has 120 offices established in 87 countries. We enjoy substantive ties with those countries, so our relations with those countries are not any less than a UN member state enjoys. I don’t think it’s abnormal.
Of course, if you compare this with the 194 countries [in the world], some have worse conditions than we do, but they don’t think they are not normal. Every country is in a unique situation. As for Taiwan and the mainland, the special relationship has an impact on Taiwan’s international space. Because of this, I think it is important to normalize economic and trade relations with the mainland.
Our economic and trade relations with the mainland are very abnormal. Although we are both WTO members, many mechanisms have not yet been created. These include tariff exemptions, investment protection and double taxation.
That is why we have been negotiating these issues with the other side of the Strait recently. So, if you are referring to this aspect, we do need to normalize economic and trade ties with them.
TT: Are you referring to the CECA [Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement]? Could you elaborate? You said during your presidential campaign that the government needs to seek public consensus on major policies. This seems to run counter to recent remarks by National Security Council Secretary-General Su Chi [蘇起] who said signing a CECA is a set policy.
Ma: It is part of my election platform, which of course has to be implemented after I was elected. Regarding its content and how it should be signed, we are open to all kinds of suggestions.
TT: During your campaign, you also mentioned the “three noes,” which included no importing Chinese labor and no further opening the market to Chinese agricultural products. Would this change under the CECA?
TT: During the two-way deregulation of industries, will the government target certain businesses?
Ma: Normalizing trade and economic relations with the mainland does not necessarily mean allowing Chinese labor or letting more Chinese agricultural products to enter the local market. Actually, when the Democratic Progressive Party [DPP] was in power, they sanctioned importation of more than 100 Chinese agricultural products.
When we sign a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement, the interests of local industries must be taken into account. What is supposed to be protected should be protected, and what is supposed to be free should be freed. We will deal with the matter carefully.
TT: Will the government seek a public consensus via a referendum?
Ma: Such an agreement must be sent to the legislature, according to 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].
TT: The four agreements signed last year between the Straits Exchange Foundation and China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait [ARATS] were not reviewed by the legislature, but took effect automatically. It seems the public’s voices were not reflected.