logo logo


In early 2009, the Ma administration in Taipei and the Chinese government in Beijing began seriously discussing the possibility of signing a free trade agreement between the two. The stakes are quite large and so is the controversy around any such deal. Ever since 1949, when nationalists fled the mainland, China considers Taiwan a breakaway province that should fall under Beijing’s rule. Taiwan, on the other hand, has been trying to build and maintain its autonomy as a sovereign democratic state. Military tensions have surrounded this antagonistic relationship for 60 years, while China has been quite successful in asserting its "one China" policy among the world’s governments and alienating Taiwan diplomatically.

The new urge to sign an FTA comes after the nationalists lost power in Taiwan’s 2008 elections. China is, in fact, Taiwan’s top trading partner. Taiwanese businesses have built up strong investments in the mainland and the island’s political leadership is particularly concerned about losing economic strength in Asia once the China-ASEAN FTA starts coming into force in 2010.

The big question is whether a China-Taiwan FTA would trigger the start of Taiwan’s transition toward effective economic and political control by Beijing ("reunification"). In this regard, people have even been fighting over the possible name of the FTA. Taiwanese opposition forces insist that it should not be called a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, as originally proposed, because that is what China’s FTAs with Macao and Hong Kong are called. (Therefore, calling it a CEPA would insinuate that Taiwan has the same political status as these two special administrative regions of China.)

In June 2010, the governments of China and Taiwan signed an Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) which took effect in September 2010. The two governments intend to complete negotiations under this agreement by 2014. There have been major protests and much criticism of the deal in Taiwan.

last update: May 2012
Photo: WaDaNaBe / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Panel rejects request for national referendum on ECFA
Taiwan’s Referendum Review Committee yesterday rejected a proposal to hold a national referendum on an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) that has yet to be signed between Taipei and Beijing.
ECFA early-harvest list may contain 500 items: Chinese official
Mainland China may make a major concession in the talks for cross-Taiwan Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) by expanding the early-harvest list, or priority items for tariff cut or market opening, to 500 items rather than the expected 300.
Ma urges PRC not to block FTAs
Taiwan’s President Ma is in trouble after a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman says that Beijing would not allow Taiwan to sign trade deals with other countries, even after an ECFA is signed.
Taiwan foreign FTAs opposed
Taiwan protested on Wednesday after China said it will object to foreign countries signing free trade agreements with the island, a blow to what Taipei officials see as a key driver to its US$390 billion economy.
Government’s ECFA referendum stance misleading: TSU
Taiwan authorities will decide Thursday on whether the ECFA referendum proposal is valid.
Anti-ECFA protest launched on president’s inauguration anniversary
Opposition groups staged Thursday a sit-in in Taipei against the government’s plan to sign an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China.
Taiwanese protest trade deal with China
Hundreds of protesters gathered outside of Taiwan’s parliament on Thursday. Led by the main opposition party, the protesters called for a referendum on a free trade deal that is due to be signed with China in June.
Scenarios: Will Taiwan get hoped-for FTAs after China deal?
Taiwan is pitching a controversial free-trade framework deal with China as a way to get its giant neighbour and political rival to allow it to seek similar deals with other countries, giving a boost to its $390 billion economy.
Taiwan opponents of ECFA with China to stage 3-day protest from May 20
A 3-day protest in Taiwan against the proposed ECFA with China will begin 20 May 2010.
Ma is whittling sovereignty away
On Wednesday, China once again put conditions on the government of President Ma Ying-jeou. This time it was Wang Yi, director of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, who set the conditions by saying that, as long as the two sides of the Taiwan Strait can work together to oppose Taiwanese independence and uphold the “1992 consensus,” that will be the political guarantee for cross-strait cooperation.