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Economic Daily News: Strategies for joining economic integration

Economic Daily News: Strategies for joining economic integration

Zhang Zhijun, director of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, said in a recent interview that cross-Taiwan Strait economic cooperation provides a convenient link for Taiwan to participate in the process of regional economic integration. On Taiwan's wish to take part in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Zhang stressed that the two sides should communicate on the matter first, and that such communication is part of a process to build mutual political trust. The Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) signed in 2010 is actually a free trade agreement (FTA) between Taiwan and China. Broadly speaking, it is also an important part of regional economic integration. The structuring of the FTA will be completed following the signing of agreements on dispute settlement and trade in goods and services, possibly by next year. Beijing, however, sees the signing of FTAs and participation in regional economic integration as acts of sovereign states. It has thus restricted Taiwan's possible FTA partners to countries that have FTAs with China. Taiwan has completed FTA talks with Singapore and is close to concluding negotiations with New Zealand -- two countries that already have FTAs with China. Taiwan should be able to sign the agreements with the two countries after it completes its services trade agreement with China. Zhang stressed that free trade negotiations between Taiwan and other countries should not involve a government-to-government relationship. This is obviously based on Beijing's "one China principle." Zhang, however, did not oppose the semi-official model of negotiations, as in the case of Singapore and New Zealand. In conclusion, Taiwan needs to follow two basic principles to overcome the barriers to participating in regional economic integration. One is consolidating the "1992 consensus" and strengthening mutual trust with China, and the other is deepening cross-strait cooperation to pave the way for the two sides to jointly promote regional cooperation. There are, meanwhile, three substantial steps that Taiwan can take to achieve the goal. They are namely expediting the follow-up cross-strait negotiations under the ECFA, building a multi-tier platform for cross-strait dialogue and drafting a blueprint for cross-strait cooperation in regional economic integration. (Editorial abstract -- May 24, 2013) (By Y.F. Low)