Month: June 2010

A different kind of free-trade protest

CHANTING their opposition to unification with China and blasting air horns, tens of thousands of Taiwanese massed outside Taipei’s Presidential Office on Saturday, June 26th, to protest an outline free-trade pact. The Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement (ECFA) will comprise the most significant cross-strait agreement between China and Taiwan since the Kuomintang were routed by the Communists in 1949. One placard hoisted high above the shouting crowd featured a doctored image of Taiwan’s president, Ma Ying-jeou, kissing the cheek of his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao: “Don’t embrace the enemy,” it scolded.

The pact, due to be signed on June 29th in Chongqing—site of the Kuomintang’s headquarters during the Chinese civil war—will lower tariffs immediately on more than 800 goods and services and otherwise set out ways in which the two sides will regulate and liberalise trade over the next several years. Taiwan’s government says the ECFA will boost economic growth and prevent the diplomatically-isolated island from becoming marginalised economically. The economic threat comes from the influence that China wields in the world’s 270-plus free-trade agreements and in particular from an agreement between China and countries from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that started this year.

Taiwan’s opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) says China is using the ECFA to push for unification covertly and moreover that it will lead to enormous job losses. The DPP hopes that resisting the pact will boost its results in critical municipal elections in November, a bellwether for parliamentary and presidential polls in 2012. Mr Ma’s Kuomintang party (KMT) has seen recent setbacks in local elections. The DPP still faces uphill battle to regain power, but if it does win the presidency in 2012 then cross-strait tensions, currently at their lowest ebb in over half a century, are sure to surge again.



Thousands protest in Taiwan against China trade deal

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of Taiwanese decried a landmark trade deal with rival China in a protest on Saturday that will not stop their government from signing the agreement to boost around $100 million in annual two-way trade.

Braving thunderstorms and rain, the demonstrators lambasted Taiwan’s pro-China President Ma Ying-jeou, whom they pledged to vote out of office if he sticks by the deal, set to be signed on Tuesday.

Presidential spokesman Lo Chih-chiang scoffed at the protest, saying the strongest tie-up ever between the political foes of 60 years did not mean Taiwan was selling out to China.

“They don’t dare to oppose ECFA,” Lo said, referring to the economic cooperation framework agreement with China. “Their opposition is to a one-China market… A one-China market would be like a European Union, but we don’t have that with China.”

The crowds that converged on Ma’s office included opposition leaders raising their profile ahead of an expected parliamentary challenge next month to ECFA, which may delay the implementation of the deal.

The protest was organized by the anti-China opposition Democratic Progressive Party, whose leaders hope to position the ECFA as a key issue in November 27 local elections seen as a bellwether for the 2012 presidential race, analysts say.

“Ma Ying-jeou won’t listen, but he’ll lose in the elections,” said demonstrator Chen Chih-wu, 48, a self-employed merchant, as air horns blasted through the packed streets. “I came out to remind him how arrogant he is.”

The deal, full of sweeteners for Taiwan with less in return for China, has been described as Beijing’s gambit to charm Taiwan as an economic benefactor, part of its long-term goal of reunifying with the island over which it claims sovereignty.

Dilution of the trade pact, which includes import tariff cuts on about 800 items, would cool Taiwan’s $390 billion export-led economy. The government is pushing the deal, fearing Taipei will lose out to…


China, Taiwan to sign breakthrough trade deal

Taipei, Taiwan

China and Taiwan have wrapped up negotiations on a landmark trade agreement that would cut tariffs on a range of goods and services and establish a formal framework for economic ties, officials from both sides said Thursday in Taipei.

The deal – known as the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, and set to be formally signed in the Chinese city of Chongqing next Tuesday – is the most significant step yet toward normalizing relations across the Taiwan Strait, once one of Asia’s most dangerous flash-points.

“In terms of cross-strait relations, ECFA is a very important milestone,” said Taiwan official Kao Koong-lian at a press conference at the plush Grand Hotel in Taipei.


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