Thu, Mar 05, 2009 - Page 3 News List

ECFA would be no silver bullet: Lee

ECONOMIC WOES Former president Lee Teng-hui said it was 'silly' to expect that signing such a pact would help Taiwan as China had enough problems of its own

By Ko Shu-ling AND Meggie Lu  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) yesterday said that signing an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China was not a silver bullet that would salvage the nation's economy.

“We will not be better off if an agreement is signed,” Lee said. “They [China] can hardly look after themselves. Don't be silly.”

Lee said as Taiwan and China are both members of the WTO, both sides could sit down and address any problems using that mechanism. Even if the government was bent on pushing for an ECFA, it was duty bound to explain to the public exactly how the nation would benefit from it and what the advantages and disadvantages were.

The accord must also be approved by the legislature, Lee said, adding that US President Barack Obama had to seek congressional support for the US economic stimulus plan.

“You must look far into the future,” Lee said. “You cannot solve anything if you just look at the things happening right in front of you.”

On Chinese President Hu Jintao's (胡錦濤) statement that relations between Taiwan and China should be developed under the “one China” framework, Lee said it would be impossible to sign any agreement with China under such circumstances because “Taiwan is Taiwan and China is China.”

At a separate setting yesterday, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said the government should set out a clear picture of what an ECFA would entail and outline its content and the potential impact on the public, instead of rushing to sign an agreement with China and leave the nation's agricultural and traditional industries in a vulnerable position.

“Up until now, the government is still unclear as to what an ECFA is. If it is talking about cross-strait trade normalization, then it should be normalization under the WTO framework,” Tsai said.

The Presidential Office said yesterday that to protect local products and industries, a “defense mechanism” could be included in the negotiations on signing an ECFA.

Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said that negotiations on the economic pact would be conducted on the basis of equality, dignity and reciprocation.

“Some might be asking whether the interests of certain businesses that need to be protected would be compromised during the process,” Wang said.

“Some might be worried that President Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) campaign promise to bar further imports of Chinese agricultural products would run counter to the principle [of an ECFA],” Wang said.

It was common practice for nations to establish a “safeguard mechanism” during negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA) in a bid to protect certain products, Wang said, suggesting that the public could rest assured.

During its negotiations with the US on signing a FTA, Wang said, South Korea set limits on US movies to protect its own film industry. Japan also limits the importation of rice to protect the interests of its rice farmers, he said.

The government would do the same when negotiating with China and protect certain businesses and products, Wang said. Such limitations would be set under the precondition that Taiwan was always the focus and the public interest comes first, he said.

In response, Tsai yesterday said no defensive mechanism would be able to prevent Taiwan's entire agricultural industry being adversely impacted, as well as traditional industries.

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