KMT head meets Chinese president, targeting trade

FIRST STEP: The Chinese president said the two sides should engage in ‘pragmatic discussions’ before carrying out unification with the ultimate goal of achieving peace

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Wed, May 27, 2009 - Page 1

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) yesterday met Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) in his capacity as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and touched upon an economic pact that the administration intends to sign with Beijing.

China’s official Xinhua news agency said the two agreed on many points during their meeting in Beijing, including launching talks on an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) as soon as possible.

Emphasizing that Taiwan and China belonged to “one China,” Hu said the two had agreed to promote peace, oppose Taiwanese independence, stand by the so-called “1992 consensus” and strengthen mutual trust.

Hu said that the two sides should engage in “pragmatic discussions” of political relations 苑efore carrying out unification and establish a military confidence-building mechanism. It is the goal of both sides to put a formal end to hostility by signing a peace agreement, he said.

Hu said Taiwan and China should forge ahead with preparations for an ECFA and aim for negotiations on the agreement in the latter part of the year.

An ECFA would be beneficial to economic development and public welfare on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, Hu said.

Wu did not mention President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) or Taiwan’s sovereignty during the meeting. He repeatedly used the phrase daonei (島內, “within the island”) when referring to Taiwan.

Last week, Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) earned plaudits from lawmakers across party lines when she referred to Ma by his title during a meeting with Beijing’s mayor.

While discussing Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙), Wu mentioned Sun’s role in establishing what he called “Asia’s first democratic republic,” but did not mention the Republic of China by name.

Meanwhile, earlier yesterday, Wu encouraged more Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) figures to pursue a dialogue with China.

“I am glad to see politicians from other parties in a dialogue with China. Many DPP figures have visited China over the years [in a private capacity] and I hope they can start making public visits,” Wu said yesterday morning.

His comment was a reference to Chen’s trip to China last week to promote the World Games.

Wu — who is on an eight-day visit, is scheduled to visit China again in July to attend a party-to-party forum — invited DPP politicians to attend the July forum.

Separately, Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) said yesterday that signing an ECFA was part of Ma’s election campaign platform and that it did not matter whether Wu took up the issue with Hu.

However, Chiang said that he recognized the concerns of the opposition and felt it was important for the government to negotiate with opposition parties and their caucuses before and during cross-strait negotiations.

“Public consensus is the best support for the SEF to accomplish its mission in cross-strait negotiations,” he said.

On the formation of a legislative cross-strait task force to supervise cross-strait negotiations — a measure that was approved in 2000, but never carried out — Chiang told reporters that the political situation had changed since the proposal was passed.

He suggested that the legislature could examine cross-strait agreements by having Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) call meetings to allow caucus leaders and committee convenors to hear reports from the government about them.

Chiang made the remarks in response to questions about a poll released by the SEF yesterday to mark the completion of Chiang’s first year as the agency’s head.

According to the poll, 49.3 percent of respondents said they did not believe the nine agreements signed by the SEF and its Chinese counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) had damaged the nation’s sovereignty and dignity, while 39.7 percent said they did.

National Policy Foundation adviser Jack Lee (李允傑) said in a similar question, 55.7 percent of respondents believed the agreements followed the principle of prioritizing Taiwan and the public’s interests, while 32.8 percent believed the deals violated the principles and 11.2 percent said they were unsure. Lee said vague wording might have contributed to an apparent discrepancy of 6 percent to 7 percent between the two questions.

Chen I-hsin (陳一新), a professor at Tamkang University’s Graduate Institute of American Studies, said upcoming cross-strait talks would be more difficult because negotiations are a matter of giving and taking and it is Taiwan’s turn to give.

“Sovereignty will never be compromised under the KMT administration,” he said, adding that the opposition was wearing out the phrase “sell out.”

“When [the phrase] ‘selling out Taiwan’ is villified, it will become meaningless,” he said.

A majority of the respondents in the poll said their impression of the Chinese and Chinese government had not changed since the two sides had developed closer ties.

Lee said this sent a clear message to Beijing that its image would not improve in Taiwan if it continued to suppress the country. To win over public opinion in Taiwan, Beijing must adopt a flexible approach, he said.

While 76.7 percent of respondents agreed that the SEF and ARATS should establish liaison offices on each other’s side of the Strait, Chiang said the matter would probably not be discussed at the next round of cross-strait talks.

Any such liaison office should be fashioned as a quasi-representative office and not a contact office similar to those in Hong Kong and Macao, Lee said.

Meanwhile, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said yesterday the party opposed Wu and Hu discussing the ECFA.

“Issues relating to an ECFA should not be discussed between the KMT and the CCP before the Taiwanese public has reached a consensus on it. The right to make a decision on any ECFA belongs to the Taiwanese people, not the KMT or the CCP,” Tsai said.

Tsai said the government was ignoring public opposition to the proposed agreement.

Later yesterday, Tsai said the DPP would release details within a week of a plan to seek a referendum on the ECFA.

Separately, DPP Legislator Yeh Yi-ching (葉宜津) said yesterday that she believed China was fiddling its economic figures.

“According to Chinese economic data from the first quarter released by the Chinese government, although China’s electricity production fell 4 percent, its oil demand 3.5 percent and its tax revenue 10 percent, its economy still grew 6.1 percent,” Yeh said, calling it a “miracle.”

As China’s economic performance may not be as strong as Beijing claims, Yeh said Taiwan should not put all its eggs in one basket by relying too much on its neighbor.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY RICH CHANG AND MO YAN-CHIH

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