Taiwan and China yesterday wrapped up the fifth round of cross-strait negotiations by signing the landmark, yet controversial, Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA). Both sides also signed a copyright protection deal and resolved to pursue an investment protection pact by the end of the year.
Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman Chiang-Pin-kung (江丙坤) and his Chinese counterpart, Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), signed and exchanged the documents in a ceremony held at a hotel in Chongqing.
The government has said it will send the pact to the legislature for approval before it is implemented. According to the document signed yesterday, each side is to issue a written notice to the other following the completion of the procedures.
“The deal will take effect the day after both sides receive confirmation,” the agreement says.
During a meeting between the SEF and ARATS yesterday morning prior to the signing of the ECFA at 2:30pm, negotiators did not revise the “early harvest” lists they agreed on during a preparatory meeting in Taipei on Thursday last week.
Once the ECFA takes effect, the early harvest lists will allow the 539 items on Taiwan’s list, about US$13.8 billion in exports per year, to receive zero tariff treatment within the next two years, while Chinese exporters will get a reciprocal deal on 267 items, US$2.9 billion in exports per year.
Both sides agreed to establish a cross-strait economic cooperation commission, which will be responsible for follow-up negotiations and supervision of the agreement.
The ECFA also includes a clause authorizing either party to inform the other party should the need to suspend the agreement arise, but it does not stipulate on what grounds a suspension may be proposed.
During the morning meeting, trade officials from both sides agreed that until a cross-strait trade dispute resolution agreement is forged, the two sides would attempt to solve any disputes through negotiation and would not refer controversial cases to the WTO for arbitration.
However, the Taiwanese negotiators, including Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Francis Liang (梁國新), told their Chinese counterparts that Taiwan would seek talks on including stipulations in the cross-strait trade dispute resolution agreement that would entitle the government and Taiwanese individuals to the right to refer disputes to the WTO for arbitration.
Later yesterday at a press conference held by the SEF, Chiang said Taiwan, as a member of the WTO, had the right to negotiate free-trade agreements (FTA) with other nations at any time.
“We also encountered many problems when seeking to join the WTO. We held bilateral talks with about 30 countries. We solved those problems in the end and we will have the wisdom to resolve any difficulties [again],” Chiang said.
However, Chinese negotiators were rather more cautious.
“We understand our Taiwanese compatriots’ wish to participate in international events,” ARATS Vice Chairman Zheng Lizhong (鄭立中) said at a separate press conference.
Chinese Vice Minister of Commerce Jiang Zengwei (姜增偉) cut in and said: “We can make reasonable arrangements through cross-strait negotiations under the precondition of the ‘1992 consensus.’”
Zheng called on the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to refrain from “manipulating the signing of the ECFA.”
“The ECFA is an economic issue. No individual or group should manipulate it for political gain,” he said.
The copyright protection agreement stated that both sides agreed to establish a mechanism to reinforce anti-piracy laws and deal with cases of copyright violation.
Chiang said both sides also agreed to pursue a cross-strait medical cooperation pact and an agreement to protect cross-strait investment during the sixth round of cross-strait talks to be held in Taiwan before the end of the year.
The specific location of the talks has not yet been decided.
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