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President Ma brings ECFA campaign to Yunlin County

2010/04/03 18:12:03

Taipei, April 3 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou brought his campaignpromoting a controversial framework agreement on trade with ChinaSaturday to a part of Taiwan that is a potential hotbed of oppositionto the pact.

Speaking at a conference at National Yunlin University of Scienceand Technology, Ma said the interests of Taiwan's people were the toppriority in his administration's effort to boost industrial andeconomic development through a strategy of "strengthening Taiwan,linking the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, and reaching out to theworld."

"The government will do its utmost to accomplish what is good forTaiwan and its people, " he said.

A key element of the government's strategy to tie Taiwan andChina's markets closer together is the proposed economic cooperationframework agreement (ECFA).

But critics contend it will force Taiwan to open its market tocheap Chinese agricultural and light industrial goods that form thebedrock of local economies in regions such as Yunlin County, whereopposition to the pact is strong.

Ma explained at the conference, however, that the trade pactwould not require Taiwan to allow in more agricultural items fromChina.

The president later visited bedding and towel factories in thecounty to collect local businesses' opinions on the ECFA and listento their needs.

The textile sector is one of the conventional industries seen asbeing particularly vulnerable if cheap Chinese products are givenaccess to Taiwan in the ECFA with China.

Ma made the tour accompanied by officials from the Ministry ofEconomic Affairs, the Council of Agriculture, the Council of LaborAffairs and the Mainland Affairs Council.

The tour to Yunlin is part of Ma's efforts to personally promotethe trade pact, an initiative the administration hopes will preventTaiwan's marginalization from key regional trade blocs, such as thefree trade zone consisting of China and the Association of SoutheastNations.

The pact, however, has been harshly criticized by thepro-independence "pan-green camp, " which argues that Taiwan willbecome too economically dependent on China and lose its sovereignty.

The latest ECFA talks wrapped up April 1 in Taoyuan County, withthe two parties agreeing that no agricultural items which Taiwan doesnot import from China at present would be included in the pact's"early harvest" program.

The two sides have also reached a consensus that China will notask Taiwan to open its doors to Chinese workers.

According to Ma's close aides, President Ma will travel toKaohsiung on April 10 to continue his ECFA promotional campaign.

In addition, issues related to the trade pact are expected to bethe topic of a planned video conference between Ma and HarvardUniversity teachers and students on April 6.

(By Garfie Li and Elizabeth Hsu)