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ECFA draft can't be vetted by lawmakers: MOEA

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Lawmakers shouldn't screen the draft of an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) between Taiwan and China, the vice minister of economic affairs said yesterday.

Lin Sheng-chung told an ECFA seminar at I-Shou University in Kaohsiung that his ministry of economic affairs (MOEA) believes Taiwan will lose all advantages in the negotiation of the accord if its draft is sent to the Legislative Yuan for a debate.

Lawmakers are clamoring for participation in the negotiation and conclusion of the ECFA, without which Taiwan will be economically marginalized in a free trade zone in Asia which is set to start on January 1 next year.

A pre-screening will enable China to know Taiwan's bottom line, Lin said. “Then,” he said, “our negotiators will be in an extremely difficult position to conclude the agreement.”

Ratification of the ECFA after it is signed, on the other hand, won't downgrade Taiwan's sovereignty as an independent state, Lin said.

Altogether 421 free trade agreements have been signed worldwide as of the end of last year. Only five of them were signed between Taiwan and its diplomatic allies.

“Our trade with the five Latin American nations accounted for 0.187 percent of our worldwide trade,” Lin said.

Taiwan's trade with China represented 39.12 percent, Lin went on. “The volume of trade with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) made up another 14.22 percent,” he added.

China and all ten ASEAN member states will form a joint free trade zone from the beginning of next year. If no ECFA, similar to a free trade agreement, is signed, Taiwan's exports to the zone will be heavily taxed. Its export trade will wilt, Lin pointed out.

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