The nation’s top China affairs official said yesterday that signing an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China was not tantamount to accepting China’s “one country, two systems” plan for Taiwan.
As an ECFA is purely an economic agreement unrelated to the issue of sovereignty and a referendum was therefore unnecessary, Mainland Affairs Council Chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) said as she debated signing an ECFA with China at the Taiwan Citizen Conference on National Affairs.
Lai said an ECFA aimed to establish a fair trade agreement with Beijing and remove certain restrictions that Beijing has in place on Taiwanese goods. She said the agreement was not a free trade agreement (FTA), which in some countries requires a referendum for approval.
“We are clear about China’s intentions on unification, but the government will insist on the Republic of China’s [ROC] freedom, democracy and sovereignty,” Lai said.
Unconvinced by Lai’s remarks, Chinese political analyst Ruan Ming (阮銘) told the forum that signing an ECFA with China would be tantamount to a “trick.”
Ruan also warned that pro-China supporters in the nation were seeking to create a new identity for Taiwanese, which aimed to make Taiwanese accept the idea that there is “one China” in the world and that Taiwan belongs to China.
“The Ma [Ying-jeou (馬英九)] administration’s China policy lacks offensive and defensive strategies, it just panders to China’s strategy,” he said.
DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) also disagreed with Lai’s remarks that the proposed ECFA had nothing to do with the nation’s sovereignty.
“Signing an ECFA with China has everything to do with sovereignty and also issues that pertain to Taiwan’s interests. Lai has failed to give a clear explanation,” Tsai said. “The government is still dodging questions and many key questions remain unanswered.”
Soochow University political science professor Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) questioned the government’s rush to sign an ECFA with Beijing.
“Has the government prepared alternative measures should the negotiations with Beijing fail?” he asked.
Minister of Economic Affairs Yiin Chii-ming (尹啟銘) addressed concerns that the proposed ECFA would lead to job losses in Taiwan’s agricultural sector and various traditional industries.
Yiin said the ministry was aware of the concerns and the government has a “safeguard mechanism” to protect certain local industries, such as leather, towel and footwear manufacturers. In the initial period, Chinese goods from those sectors would not be allowed into Taiwan and anti-dumping measures would also be instituted.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STAFF WRITER AND CNA