Straits Times | March 2, 2009
Taiwan renames trade pact
By Ho Ai Li
TAIPEI — THE four-letter acronym of a proposed trade pact has sparked such a storm in Taiwan that the government had to change its name.
Over the week, the opposition lashed out at government plans to sign a free trade pact with China, called the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (Ceca).
But some Taiwanese feel Ceca sounds too similar to a pact signed by China, Hong Kong and Macau, called the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (Cepa). They fear this would imply that Taiwan is part of China, just like Hong Kong and Macau.
The furore over Ceca became so great that President Ma Ying-jeou said the pact would no longer be called Ceca, but ’cross-strait economic cooperation framework agreement’.
Speaking to cable TV network ERANews last Friday, he said Ceca is not Cepa and rebutted charges that the pact would pave the way to unification between Taiwan and China.
China considers Taiwan as part of its territory, but the self-governed island prefers the status quo for now.
Mr Ma said Taiwan would lose out when a free trade pact between China and Asean kicks in next year.
For instance, Taiwan’s petrochemical, electronics, textile and machine-tool exports to China would become less competitive compared to those from Asean.
This might cause businesses to leave Taiwan for South-east Asia, sparking a loss of 114,000 jobs on the island, and a 1 percentage point drop in its gross domestic product. He added that Taiwan was ’already five or six years late’ in pushing for a pact with China. Much of the Ceca confusion also stemmed from how the government has failed to explain what such a pact entails.