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CNFI wants more publicity campaigns for cross-strait trade

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- An industries association yesterday urged the private sector to ramp up public awareness campaigns to promote further progress in cross-strait trade agreements such as ECFA during its forum event yesterday.

The Chinese National Federation of Industries (CNFI, 工業總會) held the forum event yesterday to discuss clauses relating to the trading of goods included in the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), drawing from the counsel of numerous experts from industries and governing bodies.

In his address, CNFI Executive Director Arthur Chiao (焦佑鈞) stated that in recent years Taiwan has made tremendous progress in opening its markets to the world, including the establishment of free trade agreements with New Zealand and Singapore as well as the commencement of an initial deployment phase for a pilot free trade zone last year. Following a 12-year stall after the Doha rounds, Taiwan also made progress at the Ninth Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Bali.

Chiao, however, stated that despite recent progress Taiwan still lags behind rival competitors, including South Korea, which signed over 10 free trade agreements accounting for 36 percent of overall exports amid considerable domestic dissent. In addition, Japan has forged ahead in their efforts to be included in negotiations for the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Also, China launched the Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone program last year, a rare reversal of the mainland's conservative stance toward market freedom.

International Trade the Only Viable Path for Taiwan's Economy: Chiao

International trade remains the only viable path for Taiwan's economy, said Chiao. The government must persist in efforts to further expand cross-strait trade, despite the less-than-expected outcome of ECFA's “early harvest” list, which only yielded tariff reduction agreements for 539 items, or 6 percent of Taiwan's exports to China. Chiao stated that initial disappointment led to the lack of progress in gaining legislative approval for the subsequent service industries trade accord. ECFA will be able to render more tangible benefits once agreements for its trade goods-related clauses are established, he said.

According to Chiao, the difficulties in swaying public opinion lie in the government's shortcomings in campaigning for the people's support. He hopes that the government will learn from its previous mistakes, while pledging that the CNFI will provide assistance in the endeavor.

On the lack of tangible benefits since the signing of ECFA, Chiao stated that no policy is a panacea, as economic prosperity depends on investments and consumption in addition to trade. ECFA still represents a vital avenue to bolster the competitiveness of Taiwan's industries, and an important safeguard against fluctuations in export volumes.

In his conclusion, Chiao urged the private sector to launch its own publicity campaign so that the interests of the nation are not stifled by the dissenting minority.

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