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Mainland Affairs chief defends trade pact with China

Mainland Affairs chief defends trade pact with China

Taipei, April 4 (CNA) Mainland Affairs Council Minister Lai Shin-yuan defended a proposed economic cooperaton framework agreement (ECFA) with China Sunday in an interview with cable station Sanlih E-Television (SETTV).
The minister rebutted opposition Democratic Progressive Party claims that Chinese agriculture products and workers will eventually be brought into Taiwan according to rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO), despite the government's promise to the contrary.
The opposition party has argued that under WTO rules, ECFA is only a transitional step toward a free trade agreement, and signatories are obliged to open their market to 95 percent of each other's commercial products and services within 10 years.
"There are no such rules under the World Trade Organization, and the DPP is well aware of that," Lai said to SETTV, which tends to be critical of the government and ruling Kuomintang.
"No country in the world has opened its market completely to another state's goods, and that's especially true for agricultural products. The United States hasn't and neither has the European Union," Lai said.
She also dismissed opponents' concerns that what Taiwan gains in the initial rounds of negotiations -- thanks to China's promise to offer Taiwan concessions -- will be lost later as it will be forced to compensate Beijing for the concessions that were made.
Lai said both Beijing and Taipei have realized the sharp difference in the size of their economies and contended that China will not have more items than Taiwan on a list of goods and services that will enjoy greater market access or immediate tariff reductions or exemptions.
Each side will seek their own maximum benefit when drawing up their lists of products designated for preferential treatment, called the early harvest list, but the final list will depend on negotiations, the minister said.
Lai said the proposed pact enjoys the support of about 50 percent of the people according to various opinion polls, but the government, which is hoping for a higher support rating, is still not satisfied.
Noting that the complexity of such a pact is difficult for ordinary people to understand, Lai said Japan has inked free trade pacts with other states when polls showed only 10 percent of the people supported them.
She also dismissed the idea of having an ad hoc team of lawmakers supervise the government's engagement with China, saying existing mechanisms have provided lawmakers with sufficient opportunity to discuss and supervise the executive branch's work related to mainland China affairs.
When asked why Chinese top negotiator Chen Yunlin referred her by her name rather than her official title in their two public meetings, the minister said she understood Chen's concerns as Taipei and Beijing have yet to acknowledge each other officially, and the problem is not expected to be solved in the near future.
"He paid a visit on me because I am the head of the Mainland Affairs Council, and the country's sovereignty is none the worse because of Chen's omission of my title," Lai said.
President Ma Ying-jeou's administration has gone all out to push for the pact with China -- and hopes to sign it in June -- to prevent Taiwan from being economically marginalized as other states in the region form trade blocs.
The initiative has drawn fire from the DPP, which believes the pact undermine the country's sovereignty and provide Beijing with leverage in trying to annex Taiwan, which it considers part of its territory.
(By Feng Chao and Maubo Chang)




Updated : 2021-04-24 01:17 GMT+08:00