President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday said the government will complete negotiations on the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China in the next two years, as well as deepen economic and trade relations with other countries to raise the nation’s economic competitiveness.
The completion of the ECFA negotiations will prepare Taiwan for more economic and trade cooperation with other countries, Ma said in an interview with the Chinese-language United Evening News.
He said he expects the ECFA to help facilitate the country’s goal of signing free-trade agreements (FTA) with major trade partners and join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
“Before the ECFA was signed, many countries were watching [China’s] attitude when negotiating FTAs with us, and now the problem is solved,” Ma said. “Once the ECFA negotiations are completed, our closer economic ties with [China] will help us attract more foreign investment and negotiate trade deals with other nations.”
Taiwan and China signed the cross-strait trade agreement in June 2010 and the pact took effect in September that year. The “early harvest” program for tariff reductions or exemptions took effect on Jan. 1 last year.
The two sides are expected to conclude tariff reduction or exemption talks for more than 5,000 further items that were not included on the “early harvest” list over the next two years.
Ma dismissed concerns about over-dependence on China following the signing of the ECFA and said the cross-strait economic pact would make Taiwan more qualified to sign FTAs or trade pacts with other countries and join the TPP.
“We are not depending on [China] to connect with the world as we have been negotiating with other nations at the same time,” he said. “We must open up our markets and start seeking mutual interests with [China] in the future.”
When asked to comment on vice president-elect Wu Den-yih’s (吳敦義) recent trip to the Boao Forum in China, Ma said Wu’s meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) showed that cross-strait policies that promote peaceful relations across the Taiwan Strait are correct, and said the government will continue to develop such cross-strait mechanisms during his second term.
“As we continue with our cross-strait policies, the two sides will build mutual trust and promote peace … The mechanism works and should continue to work in spite of any transfer of power in [China],” Ma said.