Most Taiwanese have misgivings about the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) proposal to renegotiate the Cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), and further open up universities and workplaces to Chinese, Premier Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) said yesterday.
New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜), the KMT’s candidate in January’s presidential election, has outlined an economic policy that would include trade talks with China.
A slump in China’s economy has prompted concern around the world, with many foreign companies cutting back on investment there or pulling out, Chen said at a ceremony to launch a new reservoir project in New Taipei City.
“We must not put all eggs in one basket,” Chen said. “Through the diligent efforts of the government and the private sector, Taiwan can do business with countries around the world to spur international trade and economic growth.”
Separately, Acting Minister of Agriculture Chen Junne-jih (陳駿季) told lawmakers deliberating the ministry’s budget at the legislature in Taipei that under ECFA, Taiwan has tariff-free status for 18 agricultural products in the Chinese market.
However, people must remain vigilant regarding China’s tactics to influence the outcome of the election on Jan. 13, he said.
Regarding Hou’s promise to relaunch ECFA and Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement talks with China, and his plans for Chinese students, Chen Junne-jih said: “Experts and academics have pointed out that if the KMT were to enact such plans, it would result in massive unemployment among Taiwanese.”
Asked about reports that China is considering reopening imports of Taiwanese pineapples and custard apples, he said: “It is nearly harvest season for pineapples and custard apples in Taiwan, but China has plans to only permit the products from selected orchards and packaging plants.”
“At this stage, there has been no discussions on adjusting the conditions for pesticide and residue testing,” he added.
China has since 2021 unilaterally barred imports of several products, including pineapples and custard apples, usually citing the detection of pesticides or residues at its border controls.
Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) also slammed Hou’s proposals.
“They show the narrow views of his economic policy, which is to retread the old path of ‘let us depend on the big China market,’” he told a business forum in Kaohsiung. “Taiwanese will not accept it.”
“Under President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) leadership through the past seven years, exports have surged to US$470 billion from US$270 billion, a 74 percent increase, while Taiwan’s stock market has increased to NT$570 trillion [US$18.24 trillion] stock valuation from NT$230 trillion,” Chen Chi-mai said.
“This shows that the DPP works to connect directly to global markets, lifting Taiwan to become an important member of the global manufacturing and business community,” he said.
“Taiwan plays key roles with its exports and supply chains, and is an indispensable member of an alliance of free and democratic countries,” he added.
“Hou is going backward with his plans to return to former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) old road,” Chen Chi-mai said. “I do not think the public would accept it.”
There have been drastic changes in the global economy and international financial markets in the past few years, “but it is obvious that the KMT has confined itself within the narrow framework of Ma’s dependence on ‘China’s big market’ and the so-called ‘1992 consensus,’” he said.
“This runs contrary to mainstream opinion in Taiwan,” he added.
The “1992 consensus,” a term former Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su Chi (蘇起) in 2006 admitted making up in 2000, refers to a tacit understanding between the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party that both sides of the Strait acknowledge there is “one China,” with each side having its own interpretation of what “China” means.
Separately, Taiwan People’s Party Chairman and presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) said that the nation should follow the standard operating procedure agreed upon after the 2014 Sunflower movement.
“The procedure was to set up an oversight mechanism for Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement talks, then to negotiate trade rules and a services trade agreement,” Ko said. “We must take a logical, pragmatic and scientific approach on such issues.”
“Product trade agreements must come before service trade deals,” he said.
“The Sunflower movement happened due to unjustified procedures and errors in the process,” Ko said. “Service trade negitiations affect society a lot, so we should start out small, set up proper rules, then proceed with the other parts.”
“Regarding Chinese students, we would not simply throw open the doors, but would first calculate the capacity of the nation’s universities and enrollment procedures,” he said.
“Things must be planned and under control,” he added.
Additional reporting by Yang Yuan-ting and Ke Yu-hao
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