Taiwan, China not ready to negotiate ECFA: MAC

GRADUAL OPENING: The deputy minister said the two sides could exchange ideas on a deal in upcoming talks, but that inking a pact would not be on the agenda

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Tue, Oct 27, 2009 - Page 1

The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) yesterday said that Taiwan and China were not yet ready to negotiate an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA), but the two sides could touch on the issue during upcoming high-level cross-strait talks.

MAC Deputy Minister Liu Te-shun (劉德勳) said the pact President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration wants to sign with Beijing was unlikely to be on the agenda at the next meeting between Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) and Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林). The meeting is scheduled to be held in Taichung in December.

The two sides have agreed to address four issues during the December meeting: fishing industry cooperation, quality checks for agricultural products, cross-strait cooperation on inspection and certification and the prevention of double taxation.

Regarding an ECFA, Liu said they did not rule out arranging the two top negotiators to “exchange opinions” during their meeting in December if necessary.

“It has been the consensus of both sides that the SEF and ARATS chairmen can exchange opinions on issues of common interest,” Liu said, dismissing speculation that Beijing had postponed negotiations on the economic agreement because of controversies over the recent visit by the Dalai Lama and the screening of a documentary about exiled Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer.

Liu made the remarks in response to questions about comments made by China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Spokesman Wang Yi (王毅) on Sunday.

Wang said he hoped both sides could launch discussions about an ECFA before the end of the year, adding that talks could take place during the December meeting “if both sides consider it necessary.”

Liu said the two sides will enter the next phase of a “joint study” of the issue following each side’s “individual study” and publication of their official reports.

Liu said because the Ministry of Economic Affairs began the fourth round of unofficial consultation yesterday, a “joint study” would come next. If the two sides are ready after the study, negotiations will follow, he said.

Liu said both sides were moving in the same direction and that the council hoped to complete each step of the process in a gradual but speedy manner.

Chiang recently said that he and Chen would set the timetable for negotiations during their meeting in December, and that he hoped they could sign the planned pact during the following meeting in the first half of next year.

Meanwhile, Liu said the council planned to complete an assessment report on the effectiveness of allowing Chinese investment to enter the local market by the end of the year.

Since the policy went into effect on June 30, Liu said the council had planned to spend six months soliciting potential investors.

Liu made the remarks in response to Wang’s call on Sunday to conduct timely evaluations on the efficacy of the policy and make adjustments.

Wang urged Taiwan to further open its market in a gradual but fair and reasonable manner to make it possible for Chinese business to stay in Taiwan long-term.