Tue, May 18, 2010 - Page 3 News List

ECFA message inconsistent: DPP

EXAGGERATE, THEN DOWNPLAYThe Democratic Progressive Party accused the government of first playing up the proposed ECFA, then side-stepping the issues

By Vincent Y. Chao and Flora Wang  /  Staff Reporters

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said yesterday that recent public comments by government officials on a planned economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China have fallen short of initial claims made about its benefits.

President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration plans to sign an ECFA as early as next month, pending the next round of cross-strait negotiations.

The government expects the agreement — which will lower trade barriers and tariffs on a number of goods, details of which have yet to be announced — to boost Taiwan’s economy.

However, the DPP has argued that the government has not remained consistent on the claims, citing comments recently made by Ma that differed with earlier information on what the agreement would entail.

Information provided by the DPP shows that the president said in early February that the three main components of an ECFA would comprise tariff agreements, investment protection mechanisms and intellectual property protection.

In the debate with DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) earlier this month, Ma backtracked on those comments and acknowledged that investment protection mechanisms would be included in an ECFA only in name, while the actual content of those mechanisms would be subject to further negotiation.

Meanwhile, the DPP also said that the government has also backtracked on earlier promises to include petrochemicals and automobile parts in the “early harvest” list of sectors subject to immediate tariff reductions with China.

The Chinese-language Want Daily quoted unnamed government officials earlier this month as saying that the inclusion of a number of the products on the list has been strongly opposed by Beijing.

DPP spokesperson Tsai Chi-chang (蔡其昌) accused the government of first exaggerating the benefits of an ECFA and then downplaying the issues the closer it gets to signing the agreement.

“An ECFA will never live up to the government’s claims. Instead, as has been seen through the negotiation phase, it is full of problems and uncertainty,” Tsai said.

Opposition parties and labor groups have expressed concern that the agreement could flood Taiwan with cheap Chinese goods, impacting small businesses and traditional industries.

A sit-in protest over an ECFA, organized by pro-independence groups, is scheduled to take place in front of the legislature for three days starting on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) yesterday established a task force to deal with the negative consequences an ECFA could bring the city.

Chen told the city council that the central government had been oblivious to the concerns of the DPP and businesspeople about laborers’ rights and the nation’s sovereignty if the nation signs an ECFA with China.

Chen said she was very worried about the impact the proposed ECFA might have on the city, adding that she had instructed Deputy Mayor Lee Yung-te (李永得) to organize a task force composed of city government officials who are experts in finance, economics and labor affairs.

The task force would be responsible for proposing measures to help city residents cope with the impact of an ECFA, she said.

Chen said the city government would establish an ECFA-related fund to take care of workers in Kaohsiung whose livelihoods might be threatened by the pact.

Kaohsiung City Government Labor Bureau Director-General Chung Kung-chao (鍾孔炤) told the council that farmers and employees in the steel industry in Greater Kaohsiung — a planned merger between the city and Kaohsiung County — could suffer the most from the proposed ECFA.

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