Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) said yesterday there was no need to revise the government’s cross-strait policies despite the party’s lackluster performance in Saturday’s local elections.
Wu made the remarks when asked for comment on whether the poll results would affect the government’s plans for an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China or its other cross-strait policies.
“There is no need to fine-tune our cross-strait policy,” Wu said, adding that the government would pursue policies in line with the principles of “putting Taiwan first” and “benefiting the public.”
An ECFA can be signed as long as three conditions are met: The nation needs it, the public supports it and there is legislative oversight, he said, adding that the ECFA will proceed as scheduled — meaning that it should be inked at the fifth round of cross-strait talks early next year.
“That’s the plan for now, but we need more public support,” Wu said. “Surveys conducted recently showed that approval rates were between 50 and 56 percent. If the rate goes above 60 percent and the disapproval rate falls below 20 percent that will be better for signing the ECFA.”
The government has not dispelled the public’s misunderstandings concerning the ECFA, Wu said, adding that it would step up its efforts.
“In southern Taiwan, there are people saying that the government has allowed [imports of] many agricultural products from the mainland since [President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office], but that’s not true … Also, on labor matters, there is a false rumor about [Taiwan importing] mainland workers [after singing an ECFA],” Wu said.
At a separate setting yesterday, Ma vowed to forge ahead with the ECFA, but promised to keep the legislature informed and make the negotiations and content as transparent as possible.
Ma said his administration would work to convince the public that not signing an ECFA would be detrimental to the nation.
“Our policy is to take a Taiwan-centric approach,” he said. “We will further the interests of Taiwanese. Cross-strait negotiations will benefit both sides if they are conducted under the principle of equality and dignity.”
Ma made the remarks while meeting winners of this year’s National Outstanding Manager Awards at the Presidential Office yesterday morning.
With the fourth round of high-level, cross-strait talks scheduled to take place in Taichung later this month, Ma said there would not be any “politically sensitive language” in the agreements to be signed because they were “very technical” in nature.
The talks between Straits Exchange Foundation Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) and his Chinese counterpart, Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), will address four issues: fishing industry cooperation, quality checks of agricultural products, cooperation on inspection and certification, and preventing double taxation.
Ma said he has asked government agencies to make the four agreements as transparent as possible. Citing the financial memorandum of understanding (MOU) recently signed with Beijing, Ma said the public would know that it is not political as soon as the Financial Supervisory Commission makes public the content.
In order to maintain the principles of equality and dignity, Ma said both sides had used less sensitive titles to dodge the sovereignty issue.
“Because the public is very concerned about this, we are very sensitive in handling the matter,” he said.
As the two sides will “exchange opinions” on an ECFA during the Chiang-Chen meeting, Ma said the government would report to the legislature before the ECFA is signed and send the agreements to the legislature for approval after they are signed.
“Thus there will be discussion and the information will be transparent,” he said. “If not, the public could misunderstand and we would have greater difficulty pushing this policy.”
Calling the ECFA necessary, Ma said it was not easy to sign free-trade agreements with the nation’s major trading partners because they were not diplomatic allies.
“But if we can make a breakthrough in an ECFA with the mainland, other countries may be more willing to negotiate with us and this is very important for Taiwan,” he said. “If we don’t overcome such obstacles, it will have a negative impact on Taiwan’s trading business. This is a problem that no party in power can avoid.”
On Chinese agricultural products, Ma said the government had not allowed imports of new products over the past 19 months, nor would they do so if the country signed an ECFA or “anything else,” he said.
At a separate setting yesterday, KMT Legislator Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順) said the KMT risked another blow in future elections unless the government revises its cross-strait policies.
“The ECFA, cross-strait policies and US beef [imports] caused the KMT to fail in [Saturday’s] elections. Voters taught the KMT a lesson. If it does not change, they will teach it another lesson,” she said.
Meanwhile, at the legislature, Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-hsiang (施顏祥) agreed with KMT Legislator Lai Shyh-bao’s (賴士葆) proposal that a TV debate be held to inform the public about the ECFA.
Lai said the ECFA lacked public support mainly because the ministry had not succeeded in promoting the advantages of the pact. He suggested a TV debate could help.
Shih said many people in farming regions remained unconvinced that the ECFA would not result in imports of Chinese workers and agricultural products, despite repeated assurances from the ministry.
Some underground radio shows are misleading people about the ECFA, Shih said, adding that a TV debate “could be planned” as Lai suggested.
In related news, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said that Taiwan must try to sign free-trade pacts with the US, Japan, Singapore, the EU and Southeastern Asian countries after inking an ECFA, as this would ease public misgivings about relying too much on China.
Wu also said that a minor Cabinet reshuffle was planned for Dec. 20.
Wu dismissed allegations that the reshuffle was related to the elections, but said: “It would be suitable for excellent county commissioners and city mayors to continue to serve the public in the Executive Yuan or at state-run enterprises once they retire as local government heads.”
SCHEDULE: The delegation is due to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen this morning and witness the signing of an MOU on bilateral health cooperation in the afternoon US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar yesterday arrived in Taipei aboard a US government plane at the head of a delegation that is the highest-level visit by a US official since Washington switched diplomatic recognition to China in 1979. Azar’s flight landed at Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) at 4:48pm, nearly one hour earlier than scheduled, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. The apron where it landed is reserved for military aircraft, the Songshan Air Force Base Command said. The members of Azar’s delegation included HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, HHS Chief of Staff Brian
ALEX AZAR: The first visit by a head of the Department of Health and Human Services would strictly observe the CECC’s special regulations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar is to lead a delegation to Taiwan — the highest-level visit by a US Cabinet official since the two sides cut formal relations in 1979. The plan was announced yesterday morning by the US Department of Health and Human Services and confirmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). Beijing has expressed its concerns to Washington, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin (汪文斌) said later yesterday. Taiwan and the US only issued statements saying that the visit would happen “in the coming days.” MOFA said that due to security concerns, it would
‘CROSS-STRAIT CONSIDERATIONS’: Groups said that the Ministry of Education’s policies excluded Chinese and students should not be blocked over political issues The Taiwan International Student Movement yesterday said it would protest today outside the Ministry of Education in Taipei against a policy that excludes some Chinese students from returning to Taiwan amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Since June 17, the ministry has allowed foreign students from 19 “low risk” and “medium-low risk” countries and regions to enter Taiwan. On July 22, it announced that it was relaxing restrictions to include students from all countries and regions who are graduating this semester and on Wednesday it further expanded entry to students enrolled in degree programs. A letter sent by the ministry on Wednesday to universities did
The military last week sent “no small number” of Marine Corps officers to the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Island, 東沙群島) following reports of a Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) drill targeting the islands scheduled for this month. In an interview with Hong Kong’s Bauhinia Magazine published on Saturday last week, PLA National Defense University professor Li Daguang (李大光) confirmed that the Chinese army was planning to stage a simulated invasion of the Pratas Islands in the South China Sea this month. The islands comprise three atolls, with Pratas Island, at 1.74km2, being the largest. They lie southwest of Taiwan proper in the South