Fri, Apr 30, 2010 - Page 3 News List

ECFA could cause power shift: Tsai

CHANGE The DPP chairperson said that the party’s China policy in the future would be ‘more stable and consistent’ than that of former president Chen Shui-bian

By Vincent Y. Chao  /  STAFF REPORTER

The government’s move to sign an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China by June could lead to a power shift in the Asia-Pacific region from the US to China, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said yesterday.

DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) told reporters from international media outlets that she thought the agreement would increase Taiwan’s reliance on China’s market at the expense of bilateral ties with other trading partners.

“The ECFA will bring us much closer to China, a trend that will be increasingly difficult to reverse within the next few years,” Tsai said in English.

Tsai’s comments come after the televised ECFA debate with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) on Sunday, in which she raised concerns that the agreement could undermine Taiwan’s sovereignty and increase economic dependence on China.

The DPP wants the government to hold a referendum on the pact, citing polls that continue to show mixed support for it

In a television interview on Monday, Tsai vowed to hold an ECFA referendum if the DPP regained power in 2012 and said the party would abide by the results, even if it went against its interests.

Asked by the Taipei Times yesterday whether this meant the possibility of re-opening negotiations with China, Tsai said that if required to do so, the DPP would consider either unilaterally terminating the agreement or engaging in further bilateral discussions. However, she said any move to do so could bring legal complications.

The DPP chairperson also revealed that the party’s future China policy would be “more stable and consistent” than that of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), whose cross-strait strategy often drew criticism.

Tsai said “next time we will be more experienced and capable of managing our relationship with China,” and that cross-strait relations would become more “predictable.”

Contrary to comments made by Ma on Wednesday, Tsai said she did not think an ECFA was necessary for cross-strait stability. She said that if signed, it could lead to an “irreversible trend” that would base Taiwan’s political decisions on Chinese interests.

“The president argued that we cannot sign an FTA [free-trade agreement] with [other countries] unless we sign the ECFA with China first,” Tsai said. “It implies that their consent is required [and] we are concerned that this will become a precedent.”

She also said that the more time elapses before signing other FTAs, the more reliant Taiwan would become on China.

“The ECFA will lead [to] an increasing reliance on the Chinese market, which will reduce trade with the rest of the world,” Tsai said, adding that this could reduce support among Taiwan’s trading partners for an FTA, “a process that will be very difficult to reverse within the next few years.”

Instead, she proposed that trade agreements with China take place within the WTO framework.

Tsai said that as the WTO was based on “peace and stability,” the organization would provide protection mechanisms for Taiwan to increase trade with China in a politically neutral way.

“There’s no need to go beyond the WTO,” she said.

“We don’t have a problem with China leading the region, if China is a democracy or a market economy,” Tsai said. “However, [China] is a threat to many countries in this region.”

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