Taiwan parliament warns over China trade pact

Agence France Presse | 28 July 2010

Taiwan parliament warns over China trade pact

TAIPEI — China may use a trade pact with Taiwan to push for its political goal of reunification, the island’s parliament warned in a report on Wednesday.

The Beijing-friendly administration of President Ma Ying-jeou last month signed the historic Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), the most sweeping accord yet signed between the two former bitter rivals.

Taiwan’s parliament, dominated by Ma’s Kuomintang party, warned Beijing may have a political motive behind the agreement.

"While ECFA may generate a lot of business opportunities for Taiwan, we must not turn a blind eye to the perceived threats in the wake of the agreement," it said in a research report for lawmakers obtained by AFP.

Taiwan’s Economic Minister Shih Yen-shiang has said the ECFA is expected to create 60,000 new jobs in two years.

But the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party warns the deal, which has yet to receive final approval from parliament, would relegate Taiwan to the status of a local government such as semi-autonomous Hong Kong and Macau in any talks with Beijing.

Echoing the warning, the parliamentary report said Beijing could force Taipei into political negotiations once Taiwan became more reliant on the mainland economically.

"When that happened, Beijing may press for a peace agreement to pave the way for China’s peaceful reunification," it said.

Taiwan enjoyed a surplus of 37.6 billion US dollars in trade with the mainland in 2009, and analysts say the gap is not likely to be narrowed by the agreement, which has been tipped to benefit Taipei.

The report also challenged Ma’s belief that the agreement would encourage other countries to sign free trade agreements (FTA) with Taiwan.

"Despite the agreement, China will continue deterring other countries from forging FTAs with Taiwan ... so as to highlight its sovereignty claim over Taiwan," the report said.

Ties between Beijing and Taipei have improved markedly since Ma came to power in 2008. Beijing still considers the island part of its territory waiting to be reunified — by force if necessary — though the island has ruled itself since their split in 1949 at the end of a civil war.

source: AFP