Critics challenge Ma’s ECFA claims

BIG DEAL: The ASEAN Plus Three zone will cut exports by 1.58 percentage points compared with a 40 percent drop in exports in recent months, a think tank said

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Mon, Mar 02, 2009 - Page 3

Critics of the government’s economic policies yesterday rebutted its claims that Taiwan’s economy would suffer unless it forged closer economic ties with China.

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has said the country would see another 110,000 workers lose their jobs and GDP drop by another 1 percentage point if it did not sign a cross-strait comprehensive economic cooperation agreement (CECA), which Ma renamed “economic cooperation framework agreement” (ECFA) on Friday.

“We do not know what documentation or research Ma based those economic figures on,” Taiwan Thinktank chairman Chen Po-chih (陳博志) said at a press conference yesterday.

Citing the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research, Chen said that GDP would see a long-term drop of 0.15 percent after the ASEAN Plus One (China) free-trade zone is launched. Citing the same research, Chen said GDP would shrink 0.98 percent after the ASEAN Plus Three (China, Japan and South Korea) free-trade zone begins.

The ASEAN Plus Three zone will cut Taiwan’s exports by 1.58 percentage points, Chen said, adding that this was only a drop in the bucket compared with the 40 percent plunge in exports in recent months.

“Without citing the source of his figures, Ma’s use of them frightens people and the purpose of this is to force the public to accept his proposed economic arrangement with China,” he said.

Forty percent of the nation’s exports go to China and these shipments dropped 38 percent in November, Chen said, adding that the economy had suffered as a result of relying too heavily on one country.

If Beijing really wants to show goodwill as Ma has said, it should not block Taiwan from joining the ASEAN free-trade zone rather than pushing it to forge closer economic ties with China alone, he said.

Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) questioned Ma’s motives for pushing for an economic pact so soon.

Citing protests in South Korea against importing US beef, Tsai said the government should not ignore mounting public discontent over the matter.

At a separate setting yesterday, former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) said any economic agreement with China should be based on the principles of equality and democracy.

The government should also make the details of any proposal public rather than reaching a deal behind closed doors.