Interim deals such as the proposed economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) between Taiwan and China are not subject to WTO rules and need not necessarily lead to a free-trade agreement (FTA) within a set period of time, Taiwan’s permanent representative to the WTO Lin Yi-fu (林義夫) said yesterday.
Lin made the remarks while addressing lawmakers at the legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee, where the ECFA took center stage.
Lin said WTO rules do not set a timetable for interim deals to enter into comprehensive trade liberation under FTAs, which cover between 90 percent and 95 percent of trade in goods, services and investment.
“Generally, however, that period is about 10 years,” he said.
In accordance with Article 24 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and Article 5 of the General Agreement on Trade in Services, WTO members are allowed to form regional trade agreements (RTAs) under which tariffs on virtually all trade by signatories is eliminated, but not extended to non-FTA signatories, as global trade talks are deadlocked.
“A cross-strait ECFA is one of the formalities that could lead to a FTA, but how long the transition period will be depends on the contents of an ECFA and how other WTO members view the deal,” Lin said.
Taiwan has yet to report information about the proposed ECFA to the WTO because the ECFA “is still being negotiated,” Lin said.
Once an ECFA is signed, the contents of the trade pact would be communicated to the WTO committee on regional trade agreements, as required by WTO rules, Lin said.
“Nevertheless, many WTO members have expressed support [for an ECFA] and would be happy to see it happen … An ECFA would significantly reduce obstacles to the signing of a FTA with [Taiwan’s] other trade partners,” he said.
During the session, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers cast doubt on a government promise that an ECFA would not open Taiwan to more agricultural products from China or allow the entry of Chinese laborers.
The DPP lawmakers asked whether such promises would become invalid once an ECFA turns into an FTA.
Questions regarding the country’s sovereignty, such as the title under which Taiwan would sign an ECFA with China and whether the trade deal would be defined by the WTO as an international deal or an internal Chinese agreement, were also expressed.
Lin and Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Liang Kuo-hsin (梁國新) did not give definitive replies.
Lin also declined to comment on whether an ECFA should be put to a referendum, adding that of the 271 RTAs in force today, only one was decided via a plebiscite — a 2007 referendum to approve or reject Costa Rica’s FTA with Central America, the Dominican Republic and the US, known as the DR-CAFTA.
Lin later told reporters that Taiwan’s situation differed from that of Costa Rica, where the DR-CAFTA was put to a popular vote after the treaty failed to clear Congress.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers called on the officials to reassure the public by confirming that an ECFA would not further open the Taiwanese market to Chinese agricultural products.
Food delivery provider Foodpanda had 564 consumer disputes from January to last month and failed to attend many mediation sessions with local governments nationwide, the Executive Yuan’s Consumer Protection Committee said. In a news release earlier this month, the committee said that it investigated consumer complaints and mediations for Foodpanda and rival Uber Eats during the period, when the number of delivery orders jumped due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Uber Eats had 80 consumer disputes, the committee said. Of Foodpanda’s consumer disputes, 368 resulted from delivery drivers canceling orders after customers could not be reached, 108 were related to the quality or quantity
‘HONEYMOON’ IS OVER: A political science professor said that the Tsai administration’s popularity peaked after it successfully contained COVID-19, but is waning President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) and Premier Su Tseng-chang’s (蘇貞昌) approval ratings fell significantly this month in the wake of the government’s handling of the distribution of relief funds and stimulus coupons to people and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, a poll released yesterday by the New Power Party (NPP) showed. The poll showed that 68 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with Tsai’s performance, down 8.9 percentage points from last month, while 21 percent said they disapproved of her performance. Her approval among respondents aged 20 to 29 fell 14.7 percentage points, the largest decrease when compared with other age
‘CHINESE CAPITAL’: Fanny Liu was found guilty of reducing the rent of a tenant in exchange for a vote for a KMT Taipei city councilor candidate The Taipei District Court on Wednesday sentenced Fanny Liu (劉樂妍), a former member of the now-disbanded female pop group Fantasy 4, to 10 years in prison for vote-buying. The court found Liu — who is now based in China and has made pro-Chinese Communist Party remarks — guilty of reducing the rent on a Taipei property she owned in exchange for the tenant voting for a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate in the November 2018 nine-in-one local elections. She can appeal the ruling. Liu in December 2018 reportedly lowered the rent by NT$1,000 after the tenant said they had voted for Taipei City
Passengers arriving at Taoyuan International Airport will find that most entrances to both terminals have been sealed off as part of its COVID-19 prevention efforts. Follow the signs and directions posted on the doors to find the nearest entry point. The airport has installed infrared cameras and thermometer guns at all open entrances, and all persons with a temperature of over 37.5 degrees Celsius are prohibited from entering the terminal. In addition, staff will take the temperature of those checking in to their flights in advance at Airport MRT stations A1 and A3. In accordance with the Centers of Disease