TAIPEI - Talks between China and Taiwan on a landmark pact that could give a big lift to $109 billion (S$151 billion) in annual trade have stumbled on the choice of wording before the final phase of negotiations, although any delay is likely to be short-lived.
Taiwan objected to the use of the word "liberalisation" in the proposed economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA), fearing it could spell a too-rapid influx of Chinese goods, said Nationalist Party Deputy Secretary-General Chang Jung-kung.
"Liberalisation should be a goal, but when? We're now negotiating that issue," Chang told Reuters. "If trade is
Taiwan's government is pushing the ECFA, which it says is essential to ensure the competitiveness of Taiwan's $390 billion economy. But opponents 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.
liberalised, more Taiwan industries will be hurt. "Mainland China must use restraint. Taiwan won't accept the term liberalisation."
"I think the hope of today's government officials for Chinese products entering Taiwan is the slower the better," Chang said.
The pact, which will feature tariff cuts and is expected to be signed in June after decades of hostilities between the two sides, would also worry China if Taiwan got its way on certain electronics exports, Chang said.
"Mainland China has said a lot of Taiwan industrial products are too competitive and if tariffs were cut, China itself would be impacted," he said.