President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday touted an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) his administration seeks to sign with Beijing in May, saying it would encourage other countries to sign free-trade agreements (FTA) with Taiwan, but admitted it would also have adverse effects.
Ma said the essence of an ECFA was to help people do more business. He promised not to allow Chinese workers and more agricultural products into the domestic market and said the proposed pact would seek to lower or waive tariffs, while protecting investments and intellectual property rights.
Ma said the trade deal would create 260,000 job opportunities if it were signed, but would cause the loss of more jobs if it were not.
As president, Ma said, his goal was to create opportunities for Taiwanese so they could survive and develop in the international community and win respect.
“If I cannot do that, I don’t deserve to be president,” he said. “When a leader does what he is supposed to do, he should be considered bold and resolute in action, don’t you think?”
Ma’s remarks drew cheers from the audience at a Lunar New Year greeting lunch for China-based Taiwanese businesspeople at the Grand Hotel yesterday.
Ma said many have criticized him for leaning toward China. He denied this, saying he only tilts toward Taiwan.
“History has taught us that the more open Taiwan is to the world, the more prosperous it becomes,” he said. “The more closed, the more it will shrivel.”
Ma, however, said no had deal only benefits, adding that there was always “give and take.” He said his administration would work to strike a balance.
He said the administration would set aside a five-year, NT$95 billion (US$3 billion) budget to help businesses bear the brunt of the proposed accord to get back on their feet or help them transform. For those suffering losses, they would be eligible for compensation, he said.
Emphasizing the importance of regional economic integration, Ma said China was not the only country his administration intended to sign pacts with. His administration has also been in contact with other countries about the possibility of signing FTAs, Ma said. Whatever the administration does, he said, it will always take a Taiwan-centric approach.
The reason he is aggressive about signing an ECFA with Beijing, he said, was because it would encourage other countries to sign FTAs with Taiwan. However, he recognized that China remained the biggest hindrance to the country’s effort to do so.
“We must attack the problem from the root,” he said. “We must take China into consideration when we are reaching out to the world.”