Taipei, May 23 (CNA) Premier Sean Chen asked the Ministry of Economic Affairs Wednesday to call a meeting within one week to assist government agencies in studying follow-up negotiations to a landmark Taiwan-China trade pact and help push the talks forward, a Cabinet spokesman said.
The premier said that the completion of follow-up negotiations under the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), which was signed in June 2010, is crucial to Taiwan's push to start free trade agreement (FTA) talks with other members of the World Trade Organization, according to Hu Yu-wei.
The premier also noted recent developments that had an impact on Taiwan, including a U.S.-South Korea FTA that went into effect this year and the beginning of FTA talks among China, Japan and South Korea, saying they are "important to Taiwan and need special attention," the spokesman said.
Chen was quoted as urging all related agencies to adopt a spirit of cooperation, foresight and achievement when engaged in the follow-up negotiations in order to complete the negotiations by the end of 2013 as instructed by President Ma Ying-jeou.
In related news, at a legislative question-and-answer session the same day, Legislator Yang Chiung-ying of the ruling Kuomintang cited South Korean Trade Minister Park Tae-ho as saying that "FTAs are not a political issue, but a matter of life and death."
In the wake of the FTA talks among China, Japan and South Korea, Yang asked Economics Minister Shih Yen-shiang whether the ECFA follow-up negotiations or future FTA talks will be "political issues, economic issues or matters of life and death for Taiwan?"
In response, Shih said "the ECFA is a major issue concerning the very survival of Taiwan's economy," adding that he identified with Park's words.
He noted that Taiwan is an export-oriented island, so the government should help enterprises upgrade their competitiveness, as well as work to open up markets.
(By Hsieh Chia-chen, Lin Meng-jui and Lilian Wu)