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September 20, 2017

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Legislature must approve of any ECFA agreement: Ma

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- President Ma Ying-jeou said yesterday that the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) won't be put into practice if the contents of the pact fails to clear the legislative floor. Ma made the remarks when receiving a group of 40 representatives of the Taiwan Federation of Industry and Taiwan Provincial Industrial Association, at the Presidential Office yesterday morning.

Ma spent 20 minutes explaining the necessity of signing the ECFA with China to the representatives, as quite a few of them are engaged in such traditional industries as footwear, ceramic tiles and towels and are worried about the impact of the ECFA on their industries.

The president stressed how most countries in the world are actively proceeding with regional economic integration, and Taiwan will suffer the risk of being marginalized in the global trade arena if it fails to sign the ECFA with China.

Ma continued by saying signing the cross-strait ECFA is mainly designed to protect Taiwan's future economic development, not simply to bolster cross-strait ties. The most crucial way to avoid being marginalized is to increase engagement with other regional countries and develop closer economic and trade ties, particularly by signing free trade agreements (FTA), Ma said.

It is very important for a nation to ink FTAs with its major trade partners, Ma said, adding that Taiwan's major trade partners are China, Japan, the United States, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the European Union, New Zealand and Australia, in that order.

"This is the reason why we seek to sign an ECFA, a cross-Taiwan Strait version of a free trade agreement, with China," he said.

Taiwan's trade with China exceeded US$132 billion in 2008, despite the global economic recession, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

Ma reiterated that given the huge two-way trade, it would be tremendously harmful to Taiwan in the absence of a wholesome framework under which bilateral commerce and investment can proceed fairly and efficiently.

He stressed that Taiwan will clinch an ECFA with China only when the country finds it necessary, the people support the idea and under the supervision of the legislature. The president continued to say that the government will push for the signing of the ECFA only after it has weighed the pros and cons and found that signing such an agreement would work to Taiwan's advantage rather than disadvantage. He also noted that obstacles that Taiwan faces in its efforts to sign FTAs with other countries will be reduced once it signs the ECFA with China. He also pointed out that some domestic industries, particularly footwear and towel manufacturing sectors, will be unavoidably affected by Taiwan's signing of an ECFA with China.

"We will put this under consideration when seeking the ECFA, and an 'early harvest list' will serve as a bumper to reduce adverse impacts on the domestic industries," he said.

The "early harvest list" refers to items to be subject to tariff concessions or full market opening as soon as the ECFA pact is signed.

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