Some businesses and academics are complaining that they were coerced to endorse an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) the government seeks to sign with Beijing, Soochow University professor Luo Chih-cheng (羅致政) said yesterday.
Luo, who doubles as chief executive of Taiwan Brain Trust, said that when the think tank talked with businesspeople, trade unions and industrial groups, some complained they were “threatened” or “lured by the promise of gain” to support an ECFA or refrain from expressing their concerns over the pact.
It was clear that some academics wrote research papers to toe the government line or did so under pressure of self-censorship, he said.
Some China-based Taiwanese firms even opposed an ECFA, but did not dare publicly oppose it because they worried the administration or Beijing would react, he said.
“They told us they are very happy to see the Democratic Progressive Party oppose the pact,” Luo told reporters.
The government hopes to sign the proposed pact during the first half of this year. The second round of official negotiations is scheduled for later this month in Taipei. The administration claims the accord would boost GDP by nearly 1.7 percent and create more than a quarter million jobs.
Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Deputy Minister Kao Charng (高長), meanwhile, said the government had launched a promotional campaign to advertise an ECFA and that the public had responded positively to the pact.
MAC Deputy Minister Liu Te-shun (劉德勳) said the government had spent at least NT$900,000 promoting an ECFA, about half of which went to Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers organizing promotional events.
Kao said an ECFA would increase Taiwan’s reliance on China economically, adding, however, that the government hoped the pact would motivate other countries to develop closer economic ties with Taiwan.
“We are cautiously optimistic about the prospects,” he said, “but it will take time to find out” if the results meet our expectations.
Kao said other countries would likely stand up to China if they considered their economic interests were being jeopardized should China seek to discourage them from signing free-trade agreements with Taiwan.
He said it was difficult to determine the potential impact of the pact because it was contingent on the scope and extent of the opening of the local market.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs said about 17 industrial sectors, or 100,000 employees, would be affected by the accord. A study conducted by the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research showed that about 80,000 people would be affected.
Kao said China is Taiwan’s biggest export market and that more rules would not stop businesses from investing in China, but rather discourage other countries from developing closer ties with Taiwan.
To help firms affected by the planned pact, Kao said the government would allocate NT$95 billion (US$2.98 billion) over 10 years and increase it if necessary. However, he dismissed a suggestion that businesses benefiting from an ECFA pay into the fund, saying it would be hard to determine whether profits resulted from the trade deal.
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