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June 22, 2017

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CECA plan purely an economic issue: official

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Vice Premier Chiu Cheng-hsiung said Monday that Taiwan's plan to sign a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement (CECA) with China is purely an economic issue that is not necessarily directly related to politics.

Chiu said the CECA plan, which comes under the portfolio of the the Ministry of Economic Affairs, is aimed mainly at enabling Taiwan to meet the challenges that would arise from the ASEAN Plus China agreement set to take effect in 2010.

He said extended regional economic blocs, such as ASEAN Plus One (China) and ASEAN Plus Three (China, Japan, South Korea), will have a tremendously adverse impact on Taiwan.

"That is the reason why the administration is pushing for the signing of a CECA with China," Chiu said.

According to a report by the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research, when the ASEAN Plus Three agreement takes effect, it will indirectly result in the loss of 110,000 jobs in Taiwan.

Chang Ping-chao, chairman of the General Chamber of Commerce of the Republic of China, urged the Taiwan public to look clearly at the matter, adding that signing a CECA with China will not compromise Taiwan's sovereignty. "Is it likely that Taiwan will become a second Hong Kong or Macau if it signs a CECA with China? " he asked.

Painting the CECA as crucially important to Taiwan, Chang said if Taiwan does not sign the agreement -- which aims to allow free flow of merchandise, services, and capital between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait -- Taiwan will be a "dead meat, " because its tariffs would be too high to allow it to compete with other countries in the region.

Meanwhile, Mainland Affairs Council Chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan said Sunday that Taiwan's plan to sign a CECA with China is purely an economic matter and does not involve national sovereignty issues.

Lai said if Taiwan is to enter into negotiations with China over issues involving national sovereignty, the administration would first have to solicit the opinions of the nation's 23 million people and obtain their consent through national referendum.

But it would be unnecessary to hold a referendum on issues such as the CECA that have nothing to do with politics, Lai added.

She made the remarks at a news conference called late Sunday in response to a threat by opposition Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) Chairman Huang Kun-hui earlier in the day to launch a joint effort with the major opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to recall President Ma Ying-jeou if Taiwan signs a CECA with China.

Also on Sunday, ruling Kuomintang Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung said that the question of whether and how Taiwan should sign a CECA with China should be open for discussion.

"Taiwan should sign the CECA on condition that its sovereignty and international status are not compromised (in the process) , " Wu stressed.

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