Wu rejects referendum proposal

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER, WITH CNA

Wed, Jun 02, 2010 - Page 3

Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) yesterday voiced opposition to a proposal to hold a referendum on the government's plan to sign an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA), saying the phrasing of the question in the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU)-backed initiative was “tricky.”

“No matter what issue is put to a vote in a referendum, you must state the reason in the question,” he said.

“It just doesn’t make sense for [the TSU] to consistently speak out against signing an ECFA, and then hold a referendum asking ‘do you support an ECFA?” Wu said when approached by reporters.

The Executive Yuan’s Referendum Review Committee will decide tomorrow whether to approve or reject the TSU proposal. Voters would be asked: “Do you agree that the government should sign an ECFA with China?”

C.V. Chen (陳長文), head of the Red Cross Society of the Republic of China and a lawyer who is known to have close ties to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), recently wrote a public letter urging the committee to reject the TSU's proposal.

In the letter, Chen said that the way the TSU phrased the question leaves the possibility for opponents of an ECFA to claim that the public is against it if the referendum fails.

Wu said the public supports Chen's view, adding that he did not see any reason to hold a referendum on a “non-issue” because the ECFA’s content is still under negotiation.

“How will the public know what to vote for when the content of an ECFA is still unknown?” he asked.

He said a referendum should be held after a legislative review of the ECFA.

Meanwhile, Minister of Finance Lee Sush-der (李述德) dismissed a media report that said a proposed agreement with Beijing on avoiding double taxation had been dropped.

Lee told reporters that the government was still negotiating the deal with China and would seek to reconcile differing views in several areas.

“The deal has not been finalized, and it certainly has not been aborted,” he said.

The agreement was originally scheduled to be signed in December last year during the fourth meeting between the chief negotiators of the two sides. However, it was shelved after last-minute negotiations broke down.

Lee made the remarks in response to a media inquiry about a report by the Chinese-language Commercial Times yesterday. The report quoted Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) as saying that the agreement had been aborted, as evidenced by the failure of the two sides to resume negotiations on the issue over the past six months.

The report said Lee “did not deny” Lai’s comment, and the minister said the two sides had not held any formal discussions on the issue since the end of last year mainly because of differences between large businesses and small and medium-size enterprises on whether the agreement should be signed.

The fifth round of high-level talks between Taiwan and China is likely to take place later this month.