President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday sought to settle disputes over the government’s plan to sign a cross-strait comprehensive economic cooperation agreement (CECA) with China by changing the name to “cross-strait economic cooperation framework agreement [ECFA].”
Renaming the agreement an ECFA, Ma said in an interview with Era TV that the term “framework” would help set a clear range of issues.
This would make it possible for the two sides to sign certain parts of the agreement first and seek consensus on other parts later, he said.
“We are not only signing economic agreements with China. It’s part of our global strategy. It’s very important. If we do not start doing it today, we will regret it tomorrow,” Ma said.
Signing an economic pact with China was part of Ma’s election campaign that aimed to strengthen cross-strait economic and trade cooperation. However, the government’s plan to sign an agreement has sparked concern over its possible impact on national interests.
Ma said last week that his administration would push for the implementation of an agreement, but would seek public opinion on the title, content and form of the agreement.
He said that signing an ECFA should help push normalization of cross-strait economic and trade relations and prevent the nation from being marginalized as East Asia integrates economically.
The two sides can reach a consensus on tariff cuts for major industries including petroleum and textiles first, and discuss other areas of cooperation such as investment protection and intellectual property rights in the future, he said.
The government will seek to sign free trade agreements (FTA) or similar economic agreements with other major trading partners in addition to signing an ECFA with China, he added.
“The agreement will be signed based on the principle of reciprocity, equality and dignity between the two sides,” Ma said.
In response to Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng’s (王金平) opposition to signing an economic pact without prior legislative oversight, Ma said that the agreement should be sent to the legislature for review after a draft was signed.
“What would the Legislative Yuan review if the two sides haven’t first negotiated an agreement?” Ma said.
The president said that the government would present a report to the legislature on the direction and some details of the plan before negotiating with China, while holding public forums over the next few months to seek public opinion on the issue.
Ma brushed off opposition criticism that the pact would belittle Taiwan’s sovereignty and said that no country’s sovereignty had been belittled by signing an FTA or similar agreement.
Taiwan’s sovereignty was not belittled when signing cross-strait direct flight agreements with China, and an ECFA was not a political agreement as no sovereignty issues would be addressed, he said.
Meanwhile in the legislature, Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) said the Legislative Yuan would enjoy the absolute authority to approve or reject an ECFA with China if the government signed such a pact.
“It is very clear that [the agreement] would not take effect if the legislature disapproves it,” Liu said when fielding questions from Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬).
“We will fully communicate not only with lawmakers but also withthe public. We will also report [the contents of the agreement] to the Legislative Yuan before [we] negotiate [the agreement with China],” Liu added.