President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday said his administration would expedite the signing of an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with Beijing, promising the planned pact would not contain politically sensitive terms such as “one China,” “peaceful unification” or “one country, two systems.”
Ma made the remarks in an interview with the Chinese-language United Evening News yesterday morning. The report was published later yesterday.
Ma said unofficial cross-strait talks on the issue had been held, and official negotiations “would not have to wait until next year.” He said the proposed pact would follow the spirit and context of the WTO and the ASEAN Plus One.
While some have voiced concern that signing an ECFA would undermine Taiwan's sovereignty, Ma said the proposed pact was an economic issue and it would be different from the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) signed between Hong Kong and Beijing.
Ma also dismissed a report by the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times' sister newspaper) that cited a study by the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research. The study said the electronics and electric machinery industries could lose up to NT$350 billion (US$10.7 billion) if the ECFA was signed and that the number of people who would suffer would outnumber those who would benefit by two to one.
“Do you think the government is that stupid?” Ma asked, adding that since Taiwanese electronic goods already enjoy zero tariffs, signing an ECFA would not impact on the industry.
The proposed ECFA would include the so-called “early harvest” clause, which would benefit petrochemical, machinery, auto parts and textile industries, he said.
Ma said he realized some industries would benefit from the trade accord and some would suffer from it, but the country could not wait until ASEAN became a stronger economic bloc to sign an ECFA with Beijing. The government's job was to strike a balance between gains and losses, he said.
While the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has requested a referendum to decide whether to sign the trade agreement, Ma said the DPP did not ask the people whether the country should join the WTO when it was in power.
Ma said he realized the ECFA was not a passport to easy sailing, but would ease the concern of other countries wishing to develop economic ties with Taiwan.
On party affairs, Ma, who has just won the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) uncontested race for party chairman, said he was not in a hurry to meet his counterpart, Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), who doubles as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) general secretary.
Regarding the KMT-CCP forum, Ma said the party chairman does not necessarily have to attend the event every time nor does he have any immediate plan to do so.
Saying he was still willing to meet DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), Ma also invited the DPP to jointly develop a China policy acceptable to both parties to strengthen the country's leverage at the negotiating table.
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