Ma defends record on seeking foreign trade agreements

CHINA TIES::A report by a KMT think tank called for starting negotiations on a cross-strait peace accord, but Ma said there should be domestic consensus

By Mo Yan-chih  /  Staff Reporter

Thu, Feb 09, 2012 - Page 3

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday defended his record on seeking economic cooperation with countries other than China and reiterated the government’s goal of joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) within the next 10 years.

“We have devoted the same amount of effort in seeking economic cooperation with mainland China and other members in the international community, and only by [seeking closer ties with China] can we push for closer cooperation with other countries,” he said while presiding over the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Central Standing Committee meeting as KMT chairman.

Joining the TPP in the next 10 years and signing free-trade agreements (FTA) and similar pacts with other countries will be the economic priority during his second term, Ma said.

He vowed to create a better economic environment and increase Taiwan’s international competitiveness, saying the country should not isolate itself from the trend of global economic integration.

“The signing of the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) helped put Taiwan back on the global economic map, and many countries started to re-evaluate the strength and economic significance of Taiwan,” he said.

Lin Chu-chia (林祖嘉), a member of the party’s National Policy Foundation, presented a report on the nation’s economic prospects.

In the report, Lin called on the Ma administration to speed up the signing of FTAs with Singapore, New Zealand and other major trade partners, and to join the TPP in less than 10 years.

He also urged the government to address the issue of US beef imports immediately, as this is a key concern in the US’ handling of relations with Taiwan.

As cross-strait relations are critical to economic development, he said the government should start negotiations on a cross-strait peace accord after ECFA negotiations are completed.

In response, Ma reiterated his promise of not signing a peace pact with China unless it has strong domestic support.

“Strong domestic support would require us to seek a public consensus via referendum, as I’ve said ... There is room for discussion when it comes to systemizing peace across the Taiwan Strait, and at this stage, we can achieve the goal as long as we maintain the cross-strait status quo and peaceful development,” he said.