Taiwan’s opposition party would seek a trade deal with Beijing under international rules if it returns to power, seeking safeguards for the island that it sees as missing from a controversial bilateral deal the government plans to sign by June.
China and Taiwan, which do $109 billion (S$152 billion) in annual two-way trade despite decades of political hostilities, need a deal under the World Trade Organisation that would give Taiwan tariff reduction benefits but not be too hasty, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen told Reuters on Monday.
“We are trading with a country that has this very aggressive political intention,” Tsai said in an interview.
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“We’d be telling Beijing that the immediate task in the trade area between the two of us is to be good citizens of the WTO community. We are guaranteed we would not be discriminated against. We would be competing with others everywhere on equal terms.”
Taiwan’s government is pushing an economic cooperation framework agreement with China (ECFA, which it says is essential to ensure the competitiveness of Taiwan’s $390 billion economy.
But the deal is controversial because some fear it would allow China to pursue its political agenda of claiming sovereignty over the island and would also lead to massive unemployment as Taiwan is swamped by cheap Chinese goods.
Financial markets have largely backed the ECFA deal, eyeing the potential benefits to Taiwan’s top exporters.
Tsai however sees “rushing into ECFA” as dangerous as it would not allow Taiwan’s economy time enough to restructure to deal with the new environment.
Previous efforts to build trade ties when the DPP ruled from 2000 to 2008 struggled as the party’s anti-China rhetoric outraged Beijing, chilling the island’s economy as China’s heated up and drew in Taiwan’s regional rivals.
Tsai said that the opposition, if reelected in elections due in 2012, would pursue a separate dialogue mechanism with Beijing, possibly under the umbrella of an outside organisation, to seek peace and “teach Beijing about the island’s democracy.”
The party has already organised a group of scholars and non-governmental organisations to open talks, she said.