Ma urges trade agreements as key to catching up with South Korea
Central News Agency
2014-07-03 10:07 PM
San Salvador, El Salvador July 2 (CNA) Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou on Wednesday bemoaned obstructions to passing the trade-in-services pact with China, saying it has slowed efforts to close the gap with trade rival South Korea. "We are burning with anxiety (about lagging behind South Korea)," Ma told reporters at a tea reception during a state visit to El Salvador. "But if we don't move forward and quicken our pace (in endorsing the pact), anxiousness won't help." Once the free trade agreement being negotiated between South Korea and China is signed, it will certainly have an impact on Taiwan's share of China's massive market, the president said. According to Ma, South Korea's rapid push for the FTA with China was prompted by the Taiwan-China Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) signed in June 2010. Recognizing the reservations of the Taiwanese public in making ties with China closer, he said that he has never "made an angel out of China, but there is no need to demonize it either." Every time the government takes action to push for ratifying the services pact signed by Taiwan and China last year, it faces resistance, he lamented. The major problem as the president sees it is that the opposition regards the agreement with deep suspicion. If the fighting continues, he argued, it will not topple the ruling Kuomintang, but the economy of Taiwan as a whole. Ma took the opportunity to blast the opposition and the student protesters who occupied the Legislature in March to demand legislation allowing closer monitoring of agreements with China. He asked why they were so vocal with the demand during their protests, but no move has yet been made to pass the monitoring bill. Dismissing criticism of a lack of transparency, Ma said a clause-by-clause review of the agreement -- which his party has agreed to -- is the best way to ensure transparency, questioning why legislators would not allow the review process to begin. "There is only one explanation," the president said. "They simply don't want to pass the trade-in-services pact, and they don't want to pass the cross-strait agreements monitoring legislation," he said. Given the fierce opposition, Ma asked: "Do we want to do business with the mainland or don't we? Do we want the vast Chinese market or not?" Asked whether Taiwan could rely less economically on China, Ma said: "It can't be done." Seven members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a United States-led trade bloc currently being negotiated, have China as their largest trade partner due to its massive market and productivity, which he argued makes it a necessary destination for Taiwanese businesses. In related news, Taiwan's Deputy Economics Minister Duh Tyzz-jiun said in Taipei Thursday that his ministry is closely watching the negotiations on the China-South Korea FTA for the sake of planning a strategy for Taiwan's own talks with China on a trade in commodities agreement. Duh made the remarks as the world wonders whether significant progress will be made between Beijing and Seoul given Chinese President Xi Jinping's arrival Thursday in South Korea for a summit. A round of talks on the cross-strait commodity trade pact scheduled for sometime before late April were postponed on China's comments it was "not yet ready," Duh said, adding that it is still unknown when the next meeting on the issue will be held. (By Kelven Huang, Huang Chiao-wen and Evelyn Kao)
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