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President Ma brings ECFA campaign to Yunlin County

President Ma brings ECFA campaign to Yunlin County

Taipei, April 3 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou brought his campaign promoting a controversial framework agreement on trade with China Saturday to a part of Taiwan that is a potential hotbed of opposition to the pact.
Speaking at a conference at National Yunlin University of Science and Technology, Ma said the interests of Taiwan's people were the top priority in his administration's effort to boost industrial and economic development through a strategy of "strengthening Taiwan, linking the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, and reaching out to the world." "The government will do its utmost to accomplish what is good for Taiwan and its people, " he said.
A key element of the government's strategy to tie Taiwan and China's markets closer together is the proposed economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA).
But critics contend it will force Taiwan to open its market to cheap Chinese agricultural and light industrial goods that form the bedrock of local economies in regions such as Yunlin County, where opposition to the pact is strong.
Ma explained at the conference, however, that the trade pact would not require Taiwan to allow in more agricultural items from China.
The president later visited bedding and towel factories in the county to collect local businesses' opinions on the ECFA and listen to their needs.
The textile sector is one of the conventional industries seen as being particularly vulnerable if cheap Chinese products are given access to Taiwan in the ECFA with China.
Ma made the tour accompanied by officials from the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Council of Agriculture, the Council of Labor Affairs and the Mainland Affairs Council.
The tour to Yunlin is part of Ma's efforts to personally promote the trade pact, an initiative the administration hopes will prevent Taiwan's marginalization from key regional trade blocs, such as the free trade zone consisting of China and the Association of Southeast Nations.
The pact, however, has been harshly criticized by the pro-independence "pan-green camp, " which argues that Taiwan will become too economically dependent on China and lose its sovereignty.
The latest ECFA talks wrapped up April 1 in Taoyuan County, with the two parties agreeing that no agricultural items which Taiwan does not import from China at present would be included in the pact's "early harvest" program.
The two sides have also reached a consensus that China will not ask Taiwan to open its doors to Chinese workers.
According to Ma's close aides, President Ma will travel to Kaohsiung on April 10 to continue his ECFA promotional campaign.
In addition, issues related to the trade pact are expected to be the topic of a planned video conference between Ma and Harvard University teachers and students on April 6.
(By Garfie Li and Elizabeth Hsu)