Taipei and Beijing are still negotiating the “best timing” to submit the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) document to the WTO, government officials said.
Chang Chun-fu (張俊福), deputy director of the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ (MOEA) Bureau of Foreign Trade, said both sides had translated the document into English, but had yet to decide when to notify the global trade body on the content of the pact.
“We are taking all things into consideration, but there is no time limit,” he said, adding that some countries took years to complete the process.
Earlier last week, the bureau’s ECFA Task Force told the Taipei Times it “would notify the ECFA to the WTO pursuant to the WTO’s rules and procedures,” adding that “as a usual practice, we will consult the other signatory before making any RTA [regional trade agreement] notifications.”
“Therefore, regarding the ECFA notification, we will discuss it with China and notify the WTO in due course,” it said.
Chang said that while the WTO does not set a time limit for the submission, it was understood that two to three years was not acceptable.
As the two sides have only completed negotiations on the “early harvest” program, more agreements needed to be negotiated after the ECFA was signed, Chang said.
However, he denied that the two sides would wait until a subsequent agreement under the ECFA framework was completed before sending a notification to the WTO.
Bureau of Foreign Trade chief secretary Chiang Wen-juo (江文若) said this approach was a “higher-level” decision and that she was in no position to offer any comment.
On Dec. 14, 2006, the General Council of the WTO established, on a provisional basis, a transparency mechanism for all RTAs that provides for the early announcement of any RTA — such as the ECFA — and notification to the WTO. Member economies are to consider the notified RTAs on the basis of a factual presentation by the WTO Secretariat.
The Committee on Regional Trade Agreements considers RTAs falling under Article XXIV of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and, if applicable, Article V of the General Agreement on Trade in Services.
The US government has expressed concerns over the fact that the ECFA documents signed by Taiwan and China in June last year have yet to be submitted to the WTO as promised, especially after the ECFA came into force on Sept. 12 and its early harvest list on Jan. 1.
Asked to comment on whether it was unusual for an RTA to come into force prior to notification to the WTO, Razeen Sally, co-director of the Brussels-based European Centre for International Political Economy and an expert on the WTO and preferential trade agreements, said WTO rules on the matter were not strictly regulated.
“Relevant WTO rules [in GATT Article XXIV] are not that strong, but, more to the point, are weakly policed and often honored in the breach,” Sally said by e-mail. “So if what you say is the case [failure to notify of an RTA prior to its entry into force], it is not that unusual.”
Furthermore, Sally said that in its current form, the ECFA covered less than ordinary RTAs.
“As it stands, [the ECFA] probably does not pass muster with Article XXIV, as it is a very partial agreement, eliminating tariffs on much, much less than the 90 percent of goods trade that is the WTO standard,” he said.
The 539 categories of traded goods included in the early harvest list account for about 16 percent of China-bound exports.
“[The] ECFA might eventually meet this standard, but that is to be decided, since it is a work in progress,” Sally said.
Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang (施顏祥) has said the English version would be sent to the WTO after the “supporting measures” of the Cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Committee (CSECC) were completed.
While the notification process usually takes more than a year, Shih said he hoped this could be accomplished as soon as possible.
The ECFA stipulates that once the trade pact takes effect, the two sides are to set up a cross-strait economic cooperation committee, and within six months initiate discussions on agreements on investment protection, commodity and service trades, as well as a dispute--resolution mechanism.
Taipei and Beijing formed the ad hoc CSECC earlier this month. Aside from negotiations, the purpose of the committee is to handle implementation, application and interpretation of the agreement or disputes resulting from it.
Under early harvest provisions, China has agreed to gradually lower tariffs on 539 categories of imports, with an estimated value of US$13.8 billion a year. Beijing also agreed to open 11 service categories and 18 farming and fishery categories to tariff reductions.
For their part, Chinese exporters will get a reciprocal deal on 267 items, with an estimated value of US$2.9 billion annually.
The administration has said the ECFA would help create 260,000 jobs and boost economic growth by as much as 1.7 percent, adding that the ECFA was crucial to ensure Taiwan was not marginalized following the entry into force of the ASEAN Plus Three (ASEAN plus China, Japan and South Korea).
TWO REPORTS: The body called on EU states to support the meaningful participation of Taiwan in international organizations, as well as closer cooperation with the nation The European Parliament has backed deepening ties with Taiwan and voiced concern about heightened tension across the Taiwan Strait in reports on two major security policies, which include a passage denying that Taiwan is subordinate to China. The parliament adopted the annual report on the implementation of the Common Foreign and Security Policy in a vote of 338 in favor, 86 against and 122 abstentions during a plenary session from Monday to yesterday. It also passed the annual report on the implementation of the Common Security and Defense Policy in a vote of 350 in favor, 91 against and 96 abstentions. “Neither Taiwan
NEVER FORGET: Feb. 28 is a day to demand justice and redress, and remember the long, hard road Taiwanese walked to democracy, Tainan Mayor Huang Wei-che said President-elect William Lai (賴清德) yesterday said he would work to safeguard the nation’s security and democracy to ensure freedom and economic prosperity, and that the tragic events of the 228 Incident “never happen in Taiwan again.” The Incident refers to the indiscriminate killing of a person in a crowd on Feb. 27, 1947, and the gunning down by the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government of protesters at a resulting demonstration the next day. It was followed by a brutal crackdown. Estimates of the number of eventual deaths vary from 10,000 to more than 30,000. The Incident was closely followed by the White
CRITICAL COMPONENTS: The tail was shielded because ‘enemy forces’ could estimate its speed and acoustic fingerprint by observing the propellers, an analyst said The nation’s first domestically built submarine prototype, the Hai Kun (海鯤號), yesterday was transferred to a dry dock for final harbor acceptance tests. The prototype has been undergoing harbor acceptance tests at the factory of shipbuilder CSBC Corp, Taiwan (台灣國際造船) in Kaohsiung since October last year after an unveiling ceremony in late September. On Monday evening, the prototype was towed from the CSBC factory to nearby Jong Shyn floating dock No. 8 and then transferred to a nearby dry dock, where the final tests were being conducted. As the submarine was being moved out of the factory to the floating dock, a large
NATIONALITY ACT: The draft amendments include a new provision that allows guardians of children who are stateless to apply for nationality on their behalf The Cabinet yesterday approved draft amendments to the Nationality Act (國籍法) to ease residency requirements for some foreign professionals applying for naturalization and to allow social welfare agencies to apply for naturalization on behalf of stateless children who are residents. The proposed amendments were approved by the Cabinet in September last year, but had to be reapproved and resubmitted because of the new legislative term that began on Feb. 1. The Ministry of the Interior said that the draft amendments would help improve the retention of professional talent by cutting the required period of residency for “foreign high-level professionals” (外國高級專業人才) applying for