Thu, Mar 26, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Business groups challenge Ma on ECFA with China

AN ULTIMATUM The president of the Taiwan Friends Association warned of demonstrations if the president continues to ignore the concerns of the business sector

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Rice farmer Huang Kun-bin warns against the dangers of an economic agreement with China at a press conference yesterday.

PHOTO: CHANG CHIA-MING, TAIPEI TIMES

Local business representatives yesterday urged the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to hold a referendum on the signing of an economic pact with Beijing, saying they were against signing the planned accord under the “one China” principle.

Taiwan Friends Association president Hwang Kun-hu (黃崑虎) threatened to stage a demonstration to protest the planned economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) if the government turned a deaf ear to their concerns.

As Ma has expressed the hope to see results by the end of the year, Hwang yesterday urged the administration to make public and explain details of the planned accord as soon as possible.

Hwang called on the government to allow more businesses to participate in discussions and debates over the planned accord.

The decision-making process must also be supervised by the legislature, he said.

“The government will become an autocratic one if it refuses to make public the content and let the legislature examine it,” he said.

Since Ma came into office in May, Hwang said, he has made an all-out effort to lean toward China and cooperate with Beijing to push their joint political agenda.

Hwang criticized the administration for deceiving Taiwanese, adding that the planned agreement would only make the unemployment situation worse.

Association honorary chairman and former presidential adviser Koo Kuan-min (辜寬敏) agreed, saying he fully opposed the pact because of its negative impact on employment in Taiwan.

Koo said many people worry that Taiwan’s sovereignty is being undermined after the two sides signed agreements to launch direct transportation links last year.

Some businesses could benefit from an ECFA, Koo said, but by and large it would cause more harm than good to most businesses and the public.

This is why the government must publicize the details of the economic deal, he said.

Rice farmer Huang Kun-bin (黃崑濱) urged the government to care for farmers because they fed people from all walks of life. Once the deal was signed, Huang said he was afraid local industries would go out of business because they could not compete with cheap Chinese competitors.

You Te-erh (游德二), who is in the ceramics industry, said it would make more sense to sign free-trade agreements (FTA) with other countries because 40 percent of the country’s exports already went to China. The economic pact would only lead to more economic dependence on China, he said.

If Beijing wanted to show goodwill, it should allow Taiwan to sign FTAs with other countries, he said. He also urged China to respect the country’s will regarding the name used for the economic agreement, adding that the issue must be clearly spelled out at the negotiation table.

The government must also map out a well-thought-out plan to compensate for losses in other industries resulting from the agreement, he said.

Tea farmer Chen Tsung-chien (陳聰鑑) said the government was in no position to sign any agreement with any country because so far it had failed to deal with the impact of the country’s accession to the WTO.

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