President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday defended his administration’s plan to sign an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China as part of a global trend in which Asian countries are rushing to sign bilateral trade agreements.
“Bilateral trade negotiations have become a global trend, as it is difficult to reach consensus in multilateral trade negotiations … Our major trade competitors signed many bilateral trade pacts and they would be competing with Taiwan unfairly if we didn’t sign an ECFA,” Ma said as he traveled to Kaohsiung County to promote an ECFA to a group of residents.
Countries are seeking to sign bilateral trade pacts, including free-trade agreements (FTA), he said. In Asia, South Korea has signed seven FTAs, China nine, Japan 11 and Singapore 14. Taiwan and North Korea are the only countries that are not signing FTAs, Ma said.
“An ECFA will attract more foreign investors to Taiwan and create jobs … People should not worry about losing their job after an ECFA is signed,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) yesterday dismissed accusations from a group of Taiwanese Americans that there has been a lack of oversight on an ECFA and said the cross-strait pact, which the Ma administration hopes to sign next month, would be sent to the Legislative Yuan for approval.
MAC Deputy Minister Liu Te-shun (劉德勳) said that as a democracy, Taiwan has a sound oversight mechanism through the legislature and that government bodies accept monitoring by the legislature.
Liu said the government had put a lot of effort into making the signing of an ECFA as transparent as possible, including reporting the process to the Legislative Yuan and explaining it to the public.
“An ECFA is a simple cross-strait economic exchange with no sovereignty and political issues involved. The government will send the pact to the legislature for approval before implementation,” he said.
A group of Taiwanese Americans has sent a joint statement to US President Barack Obama calling on him to urge the Taiwanese government to conduct a referendum on an ECFA and released a letter from 28 major US supporters of Taiwan to Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) asking him to make a critical review of the proposed agreement.
The statement to Obama, backed by 16 oinfluential Taiwanese-American organizations, also asks the president to negotiate an FTA with Taiwan.
In their letter to Wang, the supporters of Taiwan — including former chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan Nat Bellocchi and former deputy assistant to the vice president for National Security Affairs Stephen Yates — said they were concerned by the lack of transparency and legislative checks and balances in ECFA negotiations.