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Academics and gov't officials discuss ECFA referendum request

Gov't representatives still rejected the need for a referendum at yesterday's discussions

Academics and gov't officials discuss ECFA referendum request

Academics and government officials yesterday debated the benefits of a referendum about an Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement with China.
The debate was organized by the Executive Yuan's Referendum Review Committee as a step toward deciding on June 3 whether or not to approve the referendum request from the opposition Taiwan Solidarity Union.
The public held grave doubts about the proposed accord, said Su Chun-hsiung, a former member of the Council of Grand Justices. If voters had the right to express their opinion in a referendum, it could result in a solution to a sharp political confrontation, he said.
In the first phase of the referendum procedure, the TSU collected more than the necessary 86,600 signatures, or 0.5 percent of eligible voters in the previous presidential election. The second phase is the screening by the government's own Referendum Review Committee.
If next week's verdict is positive, the TSU can begin the collection of at least 866,000 signatures before the issue is put on the ballot.
The fact that the TSU is phrasing the issue in a positive way as "Do you agree that the government should sign an economic cooperation framework agreement with China?" has attracted accusations that the party is trying to mask its opposition against the accord.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs said the question did not correspond to the TSU's real stance so the committee should reject the referendum request. TSU Chairman Huang Kun-hui said voters were free to either give a positive or a negative response to ECFA.
The TSU and other ECFA opponents have said a nationwide vote is absolutely necessary because the accord would harm Taiwan's sovereignty as well as its economy.
Government representatives still rejected the need for a referendum at yesterday's discussions.
Former government Central Personnel Administration chief Chen Ching-hsiu said ECFA was a complex deal covering a range of issues such as tariffs, so too complicated to submit to a referendum.
The Mainland Affairs Council said no country would submit free trade agreements to referendums, so there was no need for Taiwan to do so with the ECFA. According to the MAC, supervision by the Legislative Yuan was enough for the deal to go ahead. Once the accord was finalized, the Legislature, which itself represented public opinion, could have its say about the deal, an MAC spokesman said.
The MAC said it didn't oppose a legal referendum, but thought ECFA was not a subject that needed to be put before a nationwide vote.
The government wants to sign the agreement in June, even though a third round of negotiations, originally expected for this month, has still not started. Economics Vice Minister Lin Sheng-chung told lawmakers yesterday the government would rather delay the signing than agree to an unacceptable accord.
One of the stumbling blocks has reportedly been which sectors to put on the "early harvest" list for tariff cuts.


Updated : 2020-12-01 20:40 GMT+08:00