Thu, Jun 03, 2010 - Page 1 News List

Ma urges PRC not to block FTAs

SLAP IN THE FACE?A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said that Beijing would not allow Taiwan to sign trade deals with other countries, even after an ECFA is signed

By Mo Yan-chih, Vincent Y. Chao and Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The Executive Yuan’s Referendum Review Committee is expected to deliver a verdict today on a referendum question initiated by the Taiwan Solidarity Union and supported by the DPP asking voters whether they support the proposed ECFA.

The incident could also boost popular support for the opposition in the year-end elections, said Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明), a political scientist at Soochow University.

“Ma faces pressure from the opposition and from citizens, so the opposition’s voice will get louder,” Hsu said.

“The question is whether this will become an election issue,” he said, referring to the Nov. 27 special municipality elections, which many consider a barometer for the 2012 presidential election.

At a separate setting, European Commission Directorate General of Trade Director Mauro Petriccione said in Taipei: “Our member states will not give the commission permission to negotiate [trade deals with Taiwan] unless they have some reasonable assurance that this will not damage our economic interests in China.”

He said China remains the “answer” to whether the EU and Taiwan would be able to sign trade-enhancement measures (TEM). He did not elaborate.

While addressing the European Chamber of Commerce during a luncheon in Taipei later in the day, Petriccione said signing a Taiwan-EU TEM could “take a little while.”

“I am not saying that one should be pessimistic about FTAs between Taiwan and [the] EU, but at the moment it is very unclear,” he said, adding that the EU would continue to negotiate the matter with Taiwan “whenever it is possible and appropriate.”

Meanwhile, in Washington, Alan Romberg, distinguished fellow and director of the East Asia Program at the Henry L. Stimson Center, told Central News Agency that despite Beijing’s opposition to any form of “official” engagement between Taiwan and other countries, it would remain possible for Taiwan to sign free-trade deals that were not “government-to-government” agreements.

“One presumes that other countries would realize that a ‘government to government’ agreement would not pass muster with the People’s Republic of China, so they would plan to fashion any agreement to avoid that problem,” said Romberg, a former spokesman for the US Department of State.

Romberg said Chinese Ministry of Foriegn Affairs spokesman Ma Zhaoxu’s (馬朝旭) statement did not make it clear whether Beijing would oppose an agreement that “substantively is the equivalent of an FTA but does not take the form of a ‘government to government’ agreement.”

If China were to disappoint Taiwan’s expectations by opposing such “FTA-like” agreements altogether, it would destroy much of the goodwill that has been built between the two sides over the past two years, Romberg said.

As an ECFA has yet to be signed, he said, it is premature to try to pin down Beijing’s position regarding a future situation.

“But it is hard to believe that Beijing would not understand the importance of this issue and would not be cooperative, as long as any such agreements take into account the need to finesse the issue of ‘one China, one Taiwan’ or ‘two Chinas,’” he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AGENCIES

Also See: EDITORIAL : Nightmare scenario under ECFA

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