Tue, Jul 23, 2013 - Page 8 News List

A ‘Chinese’ affair: scrutiny needed

By Chen Rong-jye 陳榮傑

The recent signing of a cross-strait service trade agreement, following closed-door negotiations has caused an uproar in Taiwan. President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) says that if the agreement falls through, it will have a big negative impact on Taiwan’s credibility in the international community.

In making such a threat, Ma is either taking the public for fools, or he is fooling himself. Ma is in the habit of saying that both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to the same country. If that is so, any cross-strait agreement must be a domestic “Chinese” affair, and in that case, what does it have to do with “credibility in the international community?”

In its annual reports to the US Congress in recent years, the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission says that Taiwan has become economically reliant on China, and that this reliance is desirable from China’s point of view.

While the US views trade relations across the Taiwan Strait from a strategic height, Ma is more concerned with the idea that China is offering concessions for Taiwan’s benefit and with establishing a historic legacy for his presidency.

To this end, he is not shy of pushing the legislature around by telling lawmakers to approve the service trade pact in its entirety, without making any amendments.

Ma deserves to be condemned for abusing his authority in this way.

According to Article 63 of the Constitution of the Republic of China, “The Legislative Yuan shall have the power to decide by resolution upon … bills concerning … treaties and other important affairs of the State.”

Article 5 of the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (臺灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例) says: “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.”

Given that the legislature has constitutional and statutory powers to scrutinize, consider and vote on the service trade agreement, what mandate does Ma have to say that lawmakers can express their opinions about the agreement, but cannot amend it?

Most people in Taiwan agree that Ma is an incompetent leader. While some might forgive a nation’s leader for being incapable, if he leads the country off in the wrong direction, with disastrous consequences, that is definitely not forgivable.

Let us remember how Ma flashed victory Vs and shouted: “We’ve won” when the results of the presidential election came out.

From then on, he has been headed in the wrong direction, and he has forgotten that a president only has authority because the public entrust him with it.

To make matters worse, Ma’s close associates showed their “loyalty to the leader” by parroting his claim that it is not accepted international practice for legislators to scrutinize an international agreement clause by clause. However, a quick look at well-established practices in other countries shows that this claim is completely false.

There are dozens of names for international agreements. With regard to how they are considered by legislatures, they are divided into executive agreements and treaties. Treaties, in the broad sense, no matter what they are called, come under the category of “bills concerning treaties,” referred to in Article 36 of the Constitution, and, as the article says, they have to be submitted to the legislature for consideration.

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