Taiwan has agreed to speed up ECFA negotiations: China

By Jenny W. hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Thu, Jan 28, 2010 - Page 1

Taiwan and China have agreed to speed up the process of negotiating an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA), a spokesman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said yesterday.

“At talks yesterday, both sides said they wanted to accelerate the process of negotiating and signing the agreement,” said Yang Yi (楊毅), one day after the first round of official negotiations on the ECFA ended in Beijing.

The government has long expressed the hope that the agreement can be inked during the fifth round of cross-strait talks scheduled for May, but China had hinted it could take longer.

Returning home yesterday, the Taiwanese delegation said inking an ECFA would not alter the current ban on Chinese workers or open up Taiwan’s markets to more Chinese agricultural products.

Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Vice Chairman Kao Koong-liang (高孔廉) reiterated that the topic of Chinese laborers will not be on the table because of WTO protocols, while Chinese agricultural product access to Taiwan would not happen under the proposed ECFA.

“[The Chinese] fully understand our stance on agricultural products. Both sides are approaching the ECFA talks in a pragmatic manner,” Kao said.

An official who asked to remain unnamed said Taiwan’s refusal to open its markets to more Chinese produce wouldn’t be in the ECFA because “we don’t need to write out something that we will never need to enforce.”

There was no need to add an exit strategy for an issue that would never surface, at least not under this administration, the official said.

When asked if this could create a potential loophole for Beijing, the official said that if and when Beijing does raise the issue, the government would adhere to the democratic principle of respecting the will of the people.

One thing the two sides did agree upon during their seven-and-a-half hour talks on Tuesday was the Chinese name for the pact: “Cross-strait economic cooperation framework agreement” (海峽兩岸經濟合作架構(框架)協議).

The English name will still be “economic cooperation framework agreement.”

The SEF also said once the deal is signed, Taiwan would follow WTO regulations by informing the WTO of the document.

Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Deputy Chairman Liu Teh-hsun (劉德勳) said in a bid to make the dialogue process open and transparent to the public as well as to the legislature, the government will make monthly progress reports on the talks to the legislature, starting next month. There might be two reports in May because the timing would be near the fifth round of cross-strait talks, Liu said.

Delegation officials said no “early harvest list” had been discussed because the both sides were still mulling the issue.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) continued to blast the government yesterday for harming Taiwan’s sovereignty by saying that ECFA was a deal between “two regions,” referring to Liu’s comment that under the Act Governing Relations between the Peoples of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (台灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例), the relationship between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait was “region to region.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY RICH CHANG AND REUTERS