Fri, Nov 20, 2009 - Page 3 News List

ECFA will reduce chance of war: Ma

LEARNING TO LIVE TOGETHER The president said that his administration was not especially friendly with China, but ‘we still need to do business with them’

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday defended his plan to sign an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with Beijing, saying that closer cross-strait business ties would reduce the possibility of conflict.

Ma said the planned ECFA was not an attempt to lean toward China, but a necessity for the development of Taiwan.

Taiwan so far has signed free trade agreements (FTA) with five of its diplomatic allies, but the trade volume with those countries combined make up less than 1 percent of the country’s total trade, Ma said.

“We must sign FTAs with our major trading partners,” he said while meeting leaders of the Taiwan Federation of Industry, Taiwan Provincial Industrial Association and regional industrial associations at the Presidential Office yesterday.

“They are, in order of trade volume, the mainland, Japan, the US, Southeast Asian countries, the European Union, New Zealand and Australia. That is why we want to sign an ECFA with the mainland,” he said.

He nevertheless said he was uncertain whether other countries would sign FTAs with Taiwan after it clinched an ECFA with China.

“It will reduce the chance of seeing Taiwan marginalized if we sign an ECFA with the mainland,” he said. “I cannot guarantee that other countries will want to sing FTAs with us if we sign an ECFA with Beijing, but I believe we will see the abatement of obstructions and a boost to the chances of peace.”

The more business Taiwan does with China, Ma said, the more secure cross-strait peace becomes, he said.

Ma said that as bilateral trade with China amounted to US$130 billion before he took office in May last year, it was bound to put Taiwan in an adverse position if there were no framework in place to make bilateral trade and investment more efficient and fair.

As the ASEAN-plus-One is set to take effect in January, Ma said there will be an ASEAN-plus-Three, an ASEAN-plus-Five or even an ASEAN-plus-Six in the future.

“If we don’t sign the ECFA with China, we have to pay higher taxes for everything we export to China and it will deal a significant blow to our businesses,” he said. “It is for the good of Taiwan’s future development.”

Ma said his administration was not especially friendly to China.

“Even if we are not, we still need to do business with them. It is that simple,” he said.

Ma said there were advantages and disadvantages in signing the planned pact, but added that his administration “will only do it when the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.”

The president promised that the government would map out measures to take care of industries adversely affected by any deal, while including the “early harvest” article in the proposed pact to benefit certain businesses.

Ma said the ECFA would be completed in a piecemeal manner, similar to the FTA signed between China and ASEAN countries, which was signed in 2002 but did not go into effect until the following year.

As Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) has said, the government will only push an ECFA in line with the principle that “the country needs it, the public supports it and the legislature supervises it,” Ma said he would honor Wu’s promise.

He added that the government would make public its content “at an appropriate time, brief the legislature and let the lawmaking body review it.”

“If it doesn’t pass the legislature, it will not be implemented,” he said. “We will do our best to be as transparent as possible. Please rest assured that we will take a Taiwan-centered approach while furthering the public’s interests.”

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