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Under fire, minister defends progress in negotiating trade pacts

2012/05/16 13:35:49

Taipei, May 16 (CNA) Economics Minister Shih Yen-shiang defended on Wednesday the government's efforts in negotiating a bilateral trade pact with China, after another Cabinet-level economics official criticized the pace of the talks.

The ministry has been working closely with other ministries in trying to push forward the trade talks with China under the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), which was signed in 2010, Shih said at a legislative hearing.

Lawmakers across party lines questioned Shih on whether progress in negotiations with China had been too slow, as claimed in a May 14 article written by Yiin Chii-ming, head of the Cabinet-level Council for Economic Planning and Development and a former economics minister.

Yiin contended that the follow-up trade talks with China have been slow, and that Taiwan will lose any advantage it might have gained from the ECFA once a free trade bloc comprising China, Japan and South Korea is formed.

Shih said in response that Taiwan has continued to negotiate with China on the issue, and he pledged that the follow-up part of the agreement would be completed by the end of 2013.

Shih declined to offer any further details on how the ministry would approach the issue, saying only, "the goal is clear, and we will fight for it."

With China, South Korea, and Japan soon to begin negotiations on a free trade deal, however, Shih said trade talks with China would be accelerated, especially given that there are 7,000 items still to be addressed that were not covered under the ECFA's early harvest list.

(By James Lee)