Vice Premier Paul Chiu (邱正雄) denied accusations that signing a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement (CECA) with China would trade away Taiwan’s sovereignty and bring unification with China one step closer, adding that the government’s intention to sign a CECA with China was purely an economic decision.
Chiu said the plan, initiated by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, was aimed mainly at enabling Taiwan to meet the challenges that would arise from the ASEAN Plus One (China) agreement set to take effect next year.
He said extended regional economic blocs, such as ASEAN Plus One (China) and ASEAN Plus Three (China, Japan and South Korea), would have a tremendously adverse impact on Taiwan.
“That is the reason why the administration is pushing for the signing of a CECA with China,” Chiu said.
A report by the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research said that when the ASEAN Plus Three agreement takes effect, it would indirectly result in the loss of 110,000 jobs in Taiwan.
Chiu’s comments come after a growing tide of criticism from opposition leaders resulted in Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) Chairman Huang Kun-huei's (黃昆輝) threat on Sunday to launch a joint effort with the major opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to impeach President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) should Taiwan sign a CECA with China.
Echoing Chiu, Minister of Economic Affairs Yiin Chii-ming (尹啟銘) said at a separate setting that signing a CECA is, in nature, a Free Trade Agreement and has nothing to do with politics.
“Basically, it is a question of the survival of the nation’s industries and this is a problem that we have to face,” Yiin said, adding that signing a CECA with China was something that had to be done for the sake of the nation’s economic development.
Speaking yesterday, DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said that the signing of a CECA was not only an economic issue, but also one concerning the export market. More importantly, it was a security issue that involved the cross-strait political agenda and economic interaction, she said.
Tsai said the government had never engaged Taiwanese society in any substantial dialogue on the matter, nor has it released any details about what a CECA with China would entail. She said if the government still wishfully pushed to sign a CECA, it would be putting ideology first.
At a separate setting, DPP caucus whip Lee Chun-yee (李俊毅) yesterday said that for the sake of Taiwanese sovereignty and economic and trade autonomy, Taiwan should join ASEAN rather than sign a CECA with China.
Lee reiterated at a press conference in the legislature that signing a CECA would push forward cross-strait unification under a ‘one-China’ framework. Joining ASEAN would be the best way to maintain the nation’s sovereignty and economic autonomy as well as meet the best interests of Taiwan, he said.
DPP Legislator Wong Chin-chu (翁金珠) demanded that the government assess whether signing a CECA with China would have an impact on domestic unemployment.
DPP Legislator Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) said that signing a CECA was simply deception, and condemned Mainland Affairs Council Chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) for her recent remarks that signing one would not involve sovereignty issues.
Lai said on Sunday that if Taiwan were to enter into negotiations with China over issues involving national sovereignty, the administration would first have to solicit the opinions of the nation’s 23 million people and obtain their consent through a referendum.
But it would be unnecessary to hold a referendum on issues that have nothing to do with politics, such as the CECA, Lai said.
Also on Sunday, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) said that the question of whether and how Taiwan should sign a CECA with China should be open for discussion.
“Taiwan should sign the CECA on condition that its sovereignty and international status are not compromised [in the process],” Wu said.
Meanwhile, the KMT caucus yesterday voiced support for the government’s plan to sign a CECA.
At a press conference, KMT caucus secretary-general Yang Chiung-ying (楊瓊瓔) emphasized the urgency of a comprehensive cross-strait economic cooperation agreement and downplayed the impact of such a pact on the nation’s sovereignty.
“We [the Legislative Yuan] will demand that [articles of the pact] should be written to safeguard our sovereignty. We hope [the government] signs a CECA [with China] as soon as possible,” Yang said.
KMT caucus deputy secretary-general Hsiao Ching-tien (蕭景田) said the nation could lose numerous business opportunities without a cross-strait CECA after Japan, China and South Korea are included in ASEAN in the next few years.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY FLORA WANG AND JERRY YANG
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