Thu, Jul 30, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Lai defends ECFA at Rotary meeting

HEATED DEBATEThe Mainland Affairs Council chairwoman said that Taiwan would suffer economic ‘discrimination’ such as tariffs if it did not sign an ECFA with Beijing

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) yesterday engaged in a heated debate with members of the public who criticized the proposed economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with Beijing.

Addressing members of the Taipei West chapter of the Rotary Club, Lai said Taiwan would suffer economic “discrimination” if it did not sign an ECFA with Beijing.

Without an ECFA, Lai said, Taiwanese products exported to China would be taxed between 6 percent and 11 percent more than those from ASEAN countries.

She said the government would map out measures to safeguard the interests of local businesses.

There are also stratagems in place under the WTO framework, she said, adding that it was up to the government to implement them.

A club member, Alan Lin (林瓊瀛), questioned the government’s movement toward signing an ECFA, saying it seemed the government had made up its mind before even carrying out an assessment of the potential impact.

“It is like telling us unification with Beijing is the only choice and then we can talk about details later,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense.”

In response, Lai said the council would continue to communicate with the public, the legislature and Beijing, adding that she understood there was much room for improvement in that regard.

Another club member, Vincent Huang (黃政枝), said that while Lai mentioned peace and prosperity in her speech, she should tell Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) about their importance.

In response, Lai said President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Premier Liu Chao-shuan (劉兆玄) had repeatedly addressed the issue of China’s military threat and demanded that Beijing remove its missiles targeted at Taiwan before both sides could negotiate a peace deal.

China must also understand that Taiwanese wanted to have a friendly neighbor and that military hostility would only hurt the feelings of Taiwanese, she said.

Huang also asked Lai to prove that opening the economy further to China would be beneficial.

Lai said Taiwan became a tiger economy in the 1980s and 1990s, but the world had since changed. As China is rising to become an economic powerhouse, Taiwan must realize this and adjust its policies.

Visibly unsatisfied with Lai’s answer, Huang asked Lai to explain how sovereignty was not sacrificed in cross-strait talks.

Lai said the two sides had entered a new stage of “mutual non-denial” and that this was equivalent to being “mutually not subordinate” to each other.

Lai said cross-strait talks were now attended by government officials, which proved the government’s existence.

The debate was cut short by the host because of time constraints.

A club member complained that Lai should not have been invited to the event because she was a politician. Another member said that since Lai worked for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration, her only job was to promote KMT policies.

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