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Trade deal the most important step in cross-strait ties: U.S. expert

2010/06/30 17:23:43

Washington, June 29 (CNA) The landmark trade agreement --economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) -- signed betweenTaiwan and China this week is the most important step in the historyof cross-Taiwan Strait relations, a U.S. expert on Taiwan issues saidTuesday.

"But the lasting impact will depend on where ECFA leads in termsof mutually beneficial economic relations, and on the creation of aframework for peaceful development of cross-strait ties over a longperiod of time," Alan Romberg, a distinguished fellow and director ofthe East Asia Program at the Henry L. Stimson Center, told the CNA.

Under the trade agreement, which was signed Tuesday in Chongqing,China, the tariffs for 539 Taiwanese goods and 267 Chinese productswill be reduced to zero within the two years after the pact takeseffect.

While the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou has hailed theoutcome as beneficial to Taiwan, there have been concerns thatChinese products and workers may flood into Taiwan.

The opposition camp are arguing that the ECFA will benefit only asmall minority of Taiwan businesses, mostly big companies hoping foreasier access to the Chinese market, and alleged that the agreementwill lead to the creation of a "one China" market and undermineTaiwan's sovereign status.

Romberg said many of the arguments against the ECFA are "long onpolitical rhetoric and short on underlying economic analysis."

Nonetheless, he said, there are questions that will have to beanswered by the Ma administration, both about the benefits toTaiwan's economy and how anyone hurt by ECFA will be helped.

"The opposition has every right and responsibility to hold theadministration's feet to the fire to explain and justify theagreement," Romberg said.

(By Jorge Liu and Y.F. Liu)