President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) recent proposal that Taiwan should consider a peace accord with China in 10 years’ time drew the attention of foreign diplomats, with some seeking elaboration at a discussion with government officials yesterday.
Israeli Representative Simona Halperin and Gambian Ambassador Alhagie Ebrima Jarjou brought up the issue at a meeting held by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to brief the diplomatic corps on the Nuclear Safety Cooperation Agreement signed in the seventh round of cross-strait talks last Thursday.
“As for the peace accord, this is only an expressed hope and not an issue to be negotiated. This is an ideal that we wanted to strive for and achieve in the next decade, by no means is it a negotiation issue,” Mainland Affairs Council Chairman Chao Chien-min (趙建民) told the diplomats representing more than 50 countries.
Chao said the government has made it clear that several “conditions have to be satisfied first” before Taiwan pursues the agreement, which were: “If the two sides share enough trust, if we have consensus from within the country and if international support is also sufficient.”
He said that the opposition parties had “seemed to” mislead people in Taiwan and the international community by saying that the government would put the issue on the agenda for the next round of cross-strait negotiations.
The government would continue to adhere to its approach for cross-strait consultations of “easy issues before difficult ones” and “economic issues before political ones” in future talks, Chao said, adding there are still quite a few issues that looked relatively easy to be dealt with.
For example, issues to be included in the eighth round of negotiations, to be held in Taipei in the first half of next year, would include an investment protection agreement, methodological cooperation and “dozens of similar issues,” he said.
Jarjou asked officials how the government could incorporate public opinion into signing a peace accord with China when the public was divided on the issue.
Chao responded by saying that signing a peace accord is “only something we wanted to strive for, not government policy. But public opinion should be sufficiently collected. There is no doubt about that.”
Adam Tertak, representative of Hungary, asked about the status of cross-strait negotiations on a double taxation avoidance agreement, which was removed from the agenda at the last minute at the fourth round of negotiations in Dec. 2009.
Previously, Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) said that the two sides were at odds over levying income on China-based Taiwanese businesspeople according to where they reside or where their income is earned.
According to Wu, the two sides had initially agreed that the taxation would be based on the place of residence, which is Taiwan, but China later proposed that taxation should be based on the place where the income is generated, which is China.
Chao yesterday offered a different reason for the delay, saying the issue was dropped because Taiwanese businesspeople had changed their assessments about the agreement when negotiations were near completion.
“When it was near completion … we were informed, again by our businesspeople in China, that this was not exactly something they wanted,” Chao said.
It has been reported that businesspeople worried that the agreement would compromise their interests, because strict tax inspection would ensue and the flow of capital across the strait would be revealed.