Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) is scheduled to visit Taiwan at the end of this month. If Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) and Chen reach a consensus on such issues as direct sea links, chartered cargo flights and more direct passenger flight routes, they will sign an agreement during their meeting.
Since the agenda has been settled, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) has demanded that the Cabinet send the “draft guidelines for the signing of agreements between the Taiwan area and the mainland area” (台灣地區與大陸地區訂定協議處理條理條例草案) to the legislature for review as soon as possible. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus took the lead on Friday in proposing a bill to expedite the establishment of legislative supervision. These actions are legitimate and supported by the public, so President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration cannot disregard them without inciting unrest.
The Ma administration has pushed various measures to open up cross-strait links at the fastest pace in 60 years. In June, the SEF and the ARATS conducted the first round of formal cross-strait negotiations since 1999, which reached a consensus on issues such as cross-strait passenger flights and opening up Taiwan to Chinese tourists. Yet the under-the-table decision-making process, unorganized negotiation strategies and the lack of benefits to Taiwan from these talks led to widespread public criticism and a loss of confidence in Ma’s government.
The next round of cross-strait talks will discuss issues that involve national sovereignty, national security and the public’s rights and interests. Such issues are not something that can be unilaterally determined by the Cabinet or any single political party. The government must increase public participation in the matter.
In particular, any issues that touch on the Act Governing Relations Between Peoples of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (兩岸人民關係條例) must be reviewed by the legislature and then enacted into law. If there are no laws to regulate the review of cross-strait agreements, how can Chiang negotiate with Chen?
Article 5 of the act stipulates that “where the content of the agreement requires any amendment to laws or any new legislation, the administration authorities of the agreement shall submit the agreement through the Executive Yuan to the Legislative Yuan for consideration.” Article 95 states that “the competent authorities shall request the consent of the Legislative Yuan before permitting direct business transactions or direct sea or air transportation between the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area, or permitting the people of the Mainland Area to enter into the Taiwan Area to work, and if the Legislative Yuan fails to adopt any resolution within one month after the request during its session, the consent is deemed granted.” These stipulations stress that legislative supervision should be established. There is no room for ambiguity.
But enacting a special law to regulate the legislative supervision of cross-strait agreements has been the subject of debate for a long time. In 1997, the KMT proposed that “the draft guidelines for the signing of agreements between the Taiwan area and the mainland area” should be submitted to the legislature for consideration. The Cabinet then sent the draft to the legislature for review before then-ARATS chairman Wang Daohan’s (汪道涵) visit to Taiwan.