Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤), the nation’s chief negotiator with China, arrived in Nanjing, China, yesterday morning on a mission to seal three agreements and one joint statement with China.
The highlight of Chiang’s visit will be a meeting today with his Chinese counterpart, Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林).
The two sides are expected to sign three agreements on the launch of regular cross-strait passenger flights, financial cooperation and mutual judicial assistance and cross-strait cooperation to fight crime. Any consensus reached on opening Taiwan to Chinese investment would be covered in a joint statement.
Representatives of the SEF and ARATS held a preparatory meeting yesterday to finalize the text of the agreements and the joint statement.
Mainland Affairs Council Chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛), who was at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport to see off Chiang and his delegation, promised that the SEF’s negotiations with ARATS would be conducted in accordance with the principles of equality and dignity and would uphold the interests of Taiwan and its people.
During the talks, Chiang is also likely to raise a proposal for Taiwan and China to sign an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) as instructed by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) during their meeting on Friday.
Ma has argued that if Taiwan does not sign such an agreement with China, it risks being marginalized and losing its competitiveness because China and neighboring countries are planning to sign free-trade agreements.
Critics, however, warned that the ECFA could jeopardize Taiwan’s sovereignty and make it too economically dependent on China.
Defining the ECFA as an accord about “tariff reduction” and “fair trade,” Lai yesterday said it was essential to normalizing cross-strait trade.
Addressing concerns about the negative impact of the ECFA on local businesses, Lai said in an interview with a radio station in Taichung yesterday that there would be supplementary measures in place and that the government would only open industries that could benefit from and attract Chinese investment.
They will not include industries involved in high-tech development or national security, she said.
A pact on judicial assistance and cooperation to fight crime will allow for the repatriation of Taiwanese fugitives in China to face justice, she said. Of the 85 major Taiwanese economic criminals who have fled to China over the past 10 years, only one has been returned to Taiwan, she said.
Lai said the two sides would also discuss “fifth freedom of the air,” or the right of airlines to operate connecting flights, during the Chiang-Chen meeting, but it would not be the focus of the meeting because of its technical complexity.
Fifth freedom of the air means that an airline can carry passengers from one country to another, and then on to a third country. Beijing has been reluctant to discuss the matter because it touches on the issue of sovereignty.