Referendums should be used to obtain a mandate from the Taiwanese public for Taiwan and China to sign a cross-strait economic integration agreement, a former top cross-strait policymaker said yesterday.
Former Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) deputy chairman Tung Chen-yuan (童振源) said that as the government is determined to sign an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China, it is duty-bound to engage in well-planned negotiations with China.
Tung, currently a professor at National Chengchi University’s Graduate Institute of Development Studies, said the Presidential Office should establish a committee chaired by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to formulate the country’s strategy of global economic integration. The committee should solicit opinions from opposition parties, experts and academics, as well as industry and labor representatives, he said.
Tung also proposed that the government prioritize signing a preferential trade agreement with Beijing under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).
Calling on the government to include referendums in its effort to sign an ECFA with Beijing, he urged the Ma administration to continue negotiations on trade issues through dialog between the Straits Exchange Foundation and its Chinese counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, to normalize economic relations and cooperation across the Taiwan Strait.
The proposed ECFA has flaws, Tung said, adding that the government’s economic strategy was unclear, its evaluation of the pact’s benefits incomplete, its communication with the public and the opposition insincere, and its ability at execution questionable.
In a bid to forge ahead with the proposed accord, Tung said the Ma administration must insist on principles that protect Taiwan’s sovereignty, consolidate political and public consensus, help industries adapt to economic challenges and upgrade their competitiveness and formulate a comprehensive global economic integration strategy.
Saying that Taiwan was a member of the WTO and APEC, which both have frameworks that ensure the freedom of international investment and trade, Tung added that formulating a comprehensive global economic integration strategy would be economically beneficial for Taiwan because China plays a less significant role under such an arrangement. The disadvantage, however, is that Taiwan has limited power to sway the direction and agenda of international negotiations on economic integration because it is not a strong player in international politics and economics, Tung said.