China may quit trade deal with Taiwan to allay discontent over handling of virus

China reportedly not keen to renew Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement

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A masked man looks out near a national flag outside a traditional medicine hospital in Beijing.

A masked man looks out near a national flag outside a traditional medicine hospital in Beijing. (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan’s top national security official has suggested that China may refuse to renew a trade deal with the country in an effort to ease public discontent over its handling of the coronavirus (COVD-19).

National Security Bureau Director-General Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) at a legislative interpellation session said the possibility that China drops out of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) cannot be ruled out, reported Liberty Times. The trade deal, which was signed and went into effect in 2010, expires in September of this year.

Taiwan is believed to have benefited more from the tariff cuts laid out by the trade accord than China, according to Steve Lin (林祖嘉), a former minister of the National Development Council. Beijing may withdraw from the trade accord as a way to address dissatisfaction among the Chinese public that has mounted over the past months because of COVID-19, Chiu reckoned.

The ECFA was aimed to reduce tariffs and trade barriers between the two sides of Taiwan Strait, but it stirred controversy and led to clashes in the legislature between the then-ruling KMT and the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) the year it was inked.

A follow-up treaty, the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA), resulted in the Sunflower Student Movement in 2014, when protesters occupied the Legislative Yuan for three weeks. The student-led protest was the largest civil obedience movement not seen since the 1980s.