Wed, Mar 04, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Premier denies ‘political’ bias in ECFA plan

By Flora Wang AND Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) promised not to sign an “economic cooperation framework agreement” (ECFA) with China under a “political” framework yesterday amid opposition lawmakers’ concerns that the nation would not have equal footing with China.

During a question-and-answer session with Democratic Progressive Party legislators Chiu Yi-ying (邱議瑩) and Cheng Ting-fei (陳亭妃), Liu said he did not agree that signing an ECFA would be a move toward unification.

“It would be impossible [for the government to do that],” he said.

The government’s plan to sign an agreement has sparked widespread concern. President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said last week that the government would push for the implementation of an agreement, but would seek public opinion on the agreement’s title, content and form. The government had been describing the proposed pact as a cross-strait comprehensive economic cooperation agreement (CECA), but on Friday Ma sought to quell the uproar by relabeling it an “economic cooperation framework agreement.”

But Ma’s move was criticized by Chen and Chiu, who said it proved the government had no idea of the impact of such an agreement.

Liu responded by saying: “Focusing on the English name of the agreement is meaningless ... its English name is not the point … Generally speaking, it is a more comprehensive agreement on the framework of cross-strait economic [cooperation].”

Liu said the government was expected to negotiate on products, services, copyright dispute resolution mechanisms and related matters with Beijing during talks on a pact. However, he refused to provide details of the proposed deal.

“How are we going to negotiate it if we reveal the content now?” he said.

Earlier in the day, Mainland Affairs Council Chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) dismissed media speculation that an ECFA would symbolize a “one China” market.

“[The government wishes] to sign cross-strait economic cooperation agreements in a bid to normalize economic and trade relations and prevent Taiwan from being marginalized,” she said. “It is a pragmatic economic measure and agreement. It is not political at all. It has nothing to do with a ‘one China’ market.”

The Presidential Office also dismissed complaints that it would be impossible to bar some Chinese products in negotiating an economic agreement with China.

“It is a common practice to establish a ‘safeguard mechanism’ when two countries discuss a free-trade agreement,” Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said in response to questions on whether Ma could make good on his promise to bar some Chinese products or industries.

Since the content of the ECFA had not been finalized, various issues could be discussed at the negotiating table including tariffs and protecting investments and intellectual property rights, he said.

Wang said a “safeguard mechanism” was what Ma promised during last year’s campaign. There were many precedents for countries limiting certain products, citing South Korea and Japan as examples.

Also See: Forum slams proposed ECFA

Also See: EDITORIAL: CECA or ECFA: Who cares?

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