Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Ma considers meeting Premier Wen after “substantial issues” are settled

President Ma Ying-jeou has said that he may consider a meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao once the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) is signed between Taiwan and China. Ma’s remarks came on March 20th, after having heard that Premier Wen would like to visit Taiwan, despite being elderly and weak.

According to the Taipei-based China Times, the president believes it is better for leaders of the two sides of the Taiwan Strait to meet after the “substantial issues” have been settled, referring to the ECFA. Ma’s willingness to visit China signals a change from his earlier campaign pledge – when he said he would not meet with Beijing’s leaders. “What is important is the timing. The meeting will be much more meaningful after the substantial issues are resolved,” Ma said.

Premier Wen said China is ready to tackle the ECFA with Taiwan, but the ruling government of the Nationalist Party (KMT) is dithering due to the opposition of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). However, without the ECFA, the Ma administration worries Taiwan will be excluded from the free trade accords taking place as part of Asian regional economic integration among the ten-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Plus One (China) and ASEAN Plus Three (China, Japan and South Korea) that go into effect in 2010 and 2015 respectively. The exclusion could cost the island over 110,000 jobs and reduce GDP growth by 1 percent. Due to a lack of diplomatic ties, ASEAN members and other countries are reluctant to sign free trade agreements (FTA) with Taiwan unless the two sides of the Taiwan Strait reach a similar pact first.

Hoping such an agreement might be signed by the end of this year, Ma has instructed P. K. Chiang, chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), to talk about the possibility of signing the ECFA with his Chinese counterpart Chen Yunlin. The next Chiang-Chen meeting is reported to be in Nanking (China) at the end of April. According to the China Times, the “substantial issues,” such as the removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers, protection of Taiwanese investors in China, opening up of trade in petrochemical, machinery and textile products, and protection of intellectual property rights (IPR), are expected to be discussed in another round of Chiang-Chen meeting in Taipei by the end of this year.

Another benefit of the improved relations between Taipei and Beijing has been the increased numbers of mainland Chinese tourists visiting Taiwan, now averaging 2,000 daily. The Liberty Times reported, 330,000 mainland Chinese visited Taiwan last year, while 3.8 million Taiwanese visited China. Ma said that Wen’s desire to visit Taiwan would only encourage more mainlanders to visit Taiwan.

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About Me

The Press Division of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in San Francisco represents the Government Information Office (GIO), Executive Yuan, Republic of China (Taiwan). GIO maintains nine Press Divisions in the United States, including the San Francisco office. The Press Divisions are in charge of promoting Taiwan's public relations and cultural exchanges. This blog is updated by the Press Division, TECO in San Francisco.