Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) said yesterday that a free-trade-style deal with Taiwan would spare the nation’s much smaller economy, as China tries to calm fears the agreement could lead to a flood of cheap imports.
Wen, speaking at his annual news conference, said the proposed economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) would hurt neither Taiwan’s farmers nor small businesses.
“I believe that in negotiating this agreement, we need to consider the size of the economy and trade conditions as well as the interests of both sides,” he said. “We need to keep in mind Taiwan’s small businesses and ordinary people, and the interests of farmers in Taiwan.”
Taiwan’s stock and currency markets have gained on signs that, despite decades of hostility, export-reliant Taiwan is moving closer to economic powerhouse China.
“We are working to ensure that the people of Taiwan benefit from tariff conditions and early harvest programs,” Wen said.
“Relevant arrangements will also be made to help reassure farmers in Taiwan,” he said.
Wen said he was optimistic about the new trade deal.
“Negotiations are complex, but differences between brothers cannot sever blood ties. Problems can always be solved,” he said.
“On ECFA, we’ve said before that it will not involve opening the market to Chinese agricultural products,” Deputy Mainland Affairs Council Minister Liu Te-shun (劉德勳) said when asked about Wen’s remarks. “In that sense ... we’re on the same page.”
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) says the pact could flood Taiwan with cheap Chinese goods.
“The Chinese side is trying to help [President] Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) so that the DPP cannot play this card against the KMT again,” said George Tsai (蔡瑋), a political scientist at the Chinese Culture University.
“They are aware that the DPP is playing this card in the local elections,” he said.
Meanwhile, Wen reiterated his hope to visit Taiwan one day.
“I still would very much like to visit Taiwan one day,” he said.