Wed, Jan 27, 2010 - Page 3 News List

ECFA must factor in market size: SEF

PROTECTED PRODUCE An official at the Council of Agriculture brushed off reports that the government would open the agricultural market to Chinese imports

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA , BEIJING

Farmers sell their products on a street in Taipei yesterday. Taiwan and China opened negotiations yesterday in Beijing on an economic cooperation framework agreement.

PHOTO: AP

Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Vice Chairman Kao Koong-lian (高孔廉) said yesterday that both sides should take into consideration the huge difference in the size of their markets.

Talking in Beijing at the opening of the first round of talks on an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA), Kao stressed the importance of a gradual and flexible approach to handle the potential impact of the deal on industries on both sides. He hoped the meeting would set the tone for swift and successful negotiations.

The talks are expected to cover issues such as merchandise trade, trade service, economic cooperation, trade dispute settlement and an early harvest list for the protection of vulnerable industries.

Controversies over the talks have escalated, prompting the legislature to demand oversight of the process to ensure transparency, Kao said.

Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) Vice Chairman Zheng Lizhong (鄭立中) said that although an ECFA would mean adjustments in some industries and a new allocation of resources, it would be conducive to the normalization of cross-strait commerce and the peaceful development of bilateral relations.

Judging from cross-strait economic activities so far, he said, an ECFA would deepen economic cooperation and give both sides a better competitive edge to deal with the challenges of globalization.

China would heed any reasonable requests by Taiwan in the signing of the pact to create maximum benefits for both sides.

Huang Chih-peng (黃志鵬), the director-general of the Bureau of Foreign Trade, said during a meeting break later in the day that “the talks were going very smoothly” and that “both sides have shown sincerity in the process.”

Delegates frankly exchanged viewpoints during the meeting, Huang said.

The 13-member Taiwanese delegation, led by Kao, arrived in Beijing on Monday.

In Taipei, meanwhile, Council of Agriculture (COA) Vice Minister Hu Sing-hwa (胡興華) held a press conference to refute a report in the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) on Monday that quoted a report by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce on ECFA that demanded Taiwan open its agricultural market.

Hu said the council would insist on keeping the existing import ban on 834 agricultural products from China, adding that the issue would not be placed on the ECFA talks agenda until it was in the interests of Taiwanese.

“Actually there is already a negotiation mechanism for both sides of the strait to expand their market access for agricultural products under the WTO framework, but [the government] hasn’t allowed more agricultural imports,” Hu said.

Hu said the council would draw up measures to enhance competitiveness of the country’s agriculture and cope with challenges in food safety posed by climate change.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SHIH HSIU-CHUAN

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