Fri, Jan 15, 2010 - Page 3 News List

Inking ECFA still goal of next talks: Shih Yen-shiang

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

The government will continue working toward the goal of signing a trade pact with China during the next round of high-level cross-strait talks to be held in the first half of this year in China, despite some uncertainty over that time frame, Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang (施顏祥) said yesterday.

Shih said the two sides are trying to arrange formal negotiations on the proposed economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) through the Straits Exchange Foundation and Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS).

The exact date would be known very soon, he said.

The government is hoping to sign the agreement during the fifth meeting between SEF Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) and ARATS Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林).

MORE TIME NEEDED?

However, the Chinese-language China Times on Wednesday quoted Chen as saying that it might be difficult to seal the ECFA in the fifth round of talks unless both sides make careful preparations over a long period of time.

He said the negotiations on ECFA issues would take time because of their complexity.

Bureau of Foreign Trade Director General Huang Chih-peng (黃志鵬) said yesterday he had no indication from Beijing that signing an ECFA might be delayed and the two sides were preparing for the opening of formal ECFA negotiations later this month.

NO RUSH

Meanwhile, Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Liang Kuo-hsin (梁國新) said that Chen’s comment should not be interpreted negatively, because he was only reminding the concerned parties to prepare properly for the negotiations.

The two sides will not rush to sign the pact, Liang said.

The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) reaffirmed the administration’s plan to sign an ECFA with China in May.

COMPLICATED ISSUE

Deputy Council Minister Liu Te-shun (劉德勳) said that the planned pact was complicated and that was why both sides have made preparations before the negotiations, including individual research and joint studies.

Liu said both sides realized the complexity of the proposed accord, which is different from a free-trade agreement, so they would tackle it in a piecemeal manner, he said.

There would be an “early harvest measure” in place to benefit bilateral trade, he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KUO SHU-LING

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