Minister denies ‘sneaky’ trade talks

CRUCIAL AGREEMENT::As a trade in goods agreement could boost the employment rate, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said it does not want to slow down negotiations

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Jan 07, 2016 - Page 3

Minister of Economic Affairs John Deng (鄧振中) denied that the consultation team the ministry sent to China yesterday to prepare for the next round of negotiations over a possible cross-strait trade in goods agreement went to China “sneakily,” as some have alleged.

At a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus news conference, Deng said the team dispatched by the ministry did not go to China in secret, nor was the meeting planned “in a black box.”

To the Democratic Progressive Party legislative caucus’ disapproval, who called for a suspension of related negotiations until after elections on Saturday next week, which are to produce lawmakers “representing new public opinion,” KMT caucus whip Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) said that since the new government would not be formed until May 20, it is laudable that the incumbent administration has not been slacking off due to the upcoming elections.

Lai also called on DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to clearly state her stance on the trade in goods agreement.

Deng said that because the agreement could greatly boost Taiwan’s employment rate, the ministry does not want to slow down the negotiations’ pace just because of the elections.

“This is what industries need and is crucial to Taiwan’s future employment environment. There is nothing problematic about [the proceedings concerning negotiations over trade in goods with China]; the point is rather whether we would successfully get what we want in the negotiations,” Deng said.

“We need to have faith in the democratic system,” the minister said, adding that the cross-strait trade in goods agreement, if signed, would still have to be submitted to the legislature for deliberation.

Slamming those who allege the agreement would open Taiwan to all kinds of Chinese agricultural products as “distorting the facts,” Deng said President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration has over the past eight years kept the nation’s markets closed to imports of more than 500 kinds of agricultural products and would not grant a green light to all of the Chinese agricultural goods.

“However, we do not have to straitjacket ourselves, if opening up to certain Chinese agricultural products that are not produced in Taiwan and pose no harm to Taiwan’s food safety could bring us greater market and export advantages,” Deng said, adding that Taiwanese agricultural goods ran a trade surplus totaling US$100 million against China last year, when only two or three years ago, they were still posting a trade deficit.

“It shows that Taiwanese agricultural products are competitive and the market for them is slowing,” Deng said.