Wed, Jun 29, 2011 - Page 3 News List

DPP says ECFA claims are overblown

‘PART FANTASY’:The opposition said that the cross-strait trade agreement had failed to bring investment back to Taiwan, and instead resulted in capital outflows

By Shih Hsiu-chuan and Vincent Y. Chao  /  Staff Reporters, with CNA

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday criticized the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) “part fantasy,” saying it had failed to generate any substantial gains for Taiwan’s economy, while at a separate setting the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) attributed the nation’s significant growth in exports of certain agricultural products to the trade pact.

At a press conference marking the first anniversary of the trade pact’s signing, Mainland Affairs Council Minister Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) said exports of tea, orchids, grouper, milk fish and other agricultural products had increased 526 percent year-on-year to US$49.42 million during the January-to-May period after the ECFA took effect at the start of the year.

The figures show that critics of the trade deal are wrong and that the government has kept its promise to safeguard the interests of local farmers when it was negotiating the pact with China, Lai said.

Taiwan’s total exports to China rose 11.1 percent from the same period last year, but Taiwan was not overly dependent on China as its percentage of total exports had dropped from 43.3 percent last year to 40.7 percent this year, she added.

DPP spokesperson Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁), however, criticized government claims over the benefits of the ECFA at a press conference, saying that the pact had failed to spur domestic investment and instead accelerated capital outflows to China.

It has also failed to lift salaries, which have remained stagnant for the last decade, Chen said.

Chen said the DPP was of the opinion that the government’s rosy projections had fallen short and claims that the ECFA would create jobs and increase Taiwanese exports had failed to materialize.

“Instead, Taiwan’s income gap has grown to a historic high of 75 times [between the richest and poorest 5 percent], unemployment is still the highest among the Four Asian Tigers, and average salaries have fallen to levels seen 12 years ago,” he said.

Initial claims that the ECFA would spur the return of Taiwanese manufacturers have instead turned the other way around, Chen said, adding that the trade pact had increased the likelihood that companies would relocate to China to export back to Taiwan, taking advantage of lowered tariffs.

He said the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) needed to carefully review and “fix” the agreement.

DPP Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has vowed to reassess the trade pact if elected next year, but has stopped short of calling for its nullification. Her remarks have largely been toned down since last year, when she openly called for a referendum on the ECFA.

In related developments, Bill Cho (卓士昭), director-general of the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ Bureau of Foreign Trade, said Taiwan was exploring the feasibility of an economic cooperation agreement with India and the Philippines with a view to signing free-trade agreements (FTA) with the two trade partners.

Cho said Indonesia had also expressed interest in conducting a feasibility study for a trade deal with Taiwan, while the Taiwanese government was actively seeking to make it into the list of Asian countries that are negotiating FTAs with the EU.

In the lead-up to signing the ECFA, the government claimed that the trade pact would pave the way for Taiwan to enter bilateral FTAs with other countries. Singapore was the first country to hold talks with Taiwan on signing a trade deal, doing so in August last year.

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