DPP rejects ECFA report as ‘false front’

TIGER AND PREY: DPP legislators were disgusted with an Economics Committee report on the proposed trade pact, saying it sought to conceal the truth behind the treaty

By Ko Shu-ling and Vincent Y. Chao  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Thu, Mar 18, 2010 - Page 3

A legislative committee meeting to hear a report on the government’s proposed economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China was postponed again after Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers dismissed the report as a “false front.”

The legislature’s Economics Committee meeting lasted 46 minutes, during which DPP lawmakers asked to speak before they agreed to question officials.

DPP Legislator Pan Meng-an (潘孟安) said the meeting should be postponed until government officials presented a thorough report on the “early harvest” items and a list of businesses expected to bear the brunt of the proposed pact.

If the officials refused to disclose the details for security reasons, Pan said he was willing to attend a secret meeting.

“Don’t expect me to know what you are thinking,” he said. “You should be held in contempt of the legislature if you sign the agreement before you report the details to the legislative body.”

Pan also urged the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus to allow the establishment of a legislative task force to supervise cross-strait affairs. It was proposed by Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), but it has not won the backing of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).

DPP Legislator Chai Trong-rong (蔡同榮) said he opposed signing the ECFA because it would sell out Taiwan’s sovereignty and undermine its economy.

Chai said WTO regulations stipulated the signing parties of a free-trade agreement must have 85 percent of its goods open for free trade.

Certain Chinese agricultural and industrial products are currently banned from entering the local market, but already take up 21 percent of Taiwan’s total imports, Chai said.

If the ECFA is signed, Chai said, Taiwan is bound to allow the import of more industrial products from China, as the administration promised it would continue to ban the some-800 Chinese agricultural products.

DPP Legislator Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) said the report was just a “false front” and that the trade deal might turn out to be entirely different.

“China is like a tiger waiting for its kill and Taiwan is its prey,” she said.

KMT Legislator Lu Chia-chen (盧嘉辰) said he agreed to postpone the meeting and officials should make improvements according to DPP lawmakers’ requests.

“There is no need to rush, nor does the DPP need to worry. However, if we don’t do it now, we will regret it tomorrow,” he said. “It is not hard to reach a consensus as long as we put aside differences. Opponents should not oppose it for no reason or make an issue out of it due to their political beliefs.”

Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang (施顏祥) said both Taiwan and China would not know each other’s proposed “early harvest” items until they sat down at the negotiation table.

The second round of official negotiations is scheduled for later this month. Shih said at least one or two more negotiation sessions would be needed to finalize the lists.

While Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) has set the goal of 60 percent public support as a requirement to sign the ECFA, Shih said the government would “proceed if a majority of the people were in favor of it.”

Meanwhile, the DPP legislative caucus yesterday unveiled five steps it said would allow more stringent monitoring of the ECFA proposal.

“We are asking for public and transparent monitoring of the ECFA,” DPP Legislator Lee Chun-yee (李俊毅) said.

Lee criticized the government’s secrecy over the proposal saying that a two-page report delivered to lawmakers today on the agreement was “incomprehensible.”

“Can all the effects of ECFA on our manufacturing industry be summarized in just two pages?” Lee asked.

DPP lawmaker Pan Meng-an (潘孟安) also questioned the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ (MOEA) Bureau of Foreign Trade for providing subsidies to KMT lawmakers to hold ECFA information sessions, and added that the payments should be investigated by prosecutors to see if there were any improper use of public funds.

Figures provided by Pan showed the subsidies ranged from NT$50,000 to NT$300,000 and were provided to four KMT lawmakers.

Pan also questioned if the KMT had been subsidizing the information sessions with an eye on the upcoming year-end special municipality elections, as the bulk of the sessions were held in the five cities where elections will be held.

Lee also took aim at the cost-effectiveness of the subsidies saying that attendance had been low, despite the MOEA spending NT$4.6 million (US$145,000) to subsidize the sessions.