Only issues of greater importance, such as those involving Taiwan’s sovereignty,
need to be put to a referendum, he said.
“There won’t be any political items, such as ‘one nation, two systems,’ in the ECFA,” he said.
Stressing that the proposed ECFA was an economic agreement, Ma said holding referendums is time-consuming and expensive, and it would be difficult for the government to operate if it had to hold a referendum on every major policy issue. “It would be meaningless if referendums were held too often and on less important issues,” the president said.
While "the ECFA won't address sovereignty issues, so it doesn't need a referendum" is a frequent refrain from the Ma administration, before now they've carefully avoided vocalizing the implied point, which is that sovereignty issues do require a referendum. This appears to mark a reversal in that strategic ambiguity.
The quote in Chinese is reported by the Liberty Times as follows: 「我一向都主張台灣的前途必須由二千三百萬台灣人民來決定，涉及主權議題才需要公投」"I have always held that Taiwan's future is to be determined by Taiwan's 23,000,000 people; only topics related to with sovereignty need a referendum."
It could be that Ma's using the opportunity to improve his opening hand before going into peace talks with Beijing. Or maybe feeling some sort of heat from some unknown source. Or perhaps neither -- maybe he really hadn't noticed he and his spokesmen were avoiding putting the word sovereignty and referendum in the same sentence, and he truly does want to endorse the referendum process.
In any case I welcome this development.