The cross-strait service trade agreement is gradually devolving into a confrontation between those who support it and those who oppose it.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), which supports the passage of the pact through the legislature, has made three claims backing its implementation:
First, the KMT said that the government was unable to discuss the deal with domestic industrial and commercial groups before Taiwan and China signed it on June 21 because there was a “confidentiality agreement” between the two parties. It was not the government’s intention to sign the pact through in such a non-transparent way, the KMT has said.
However, many of those who oppose the service trade pact feel that since the agreement is so significant, a consensus should first have been reached domestically, beginning at the grassroots level and moving upward, instead of the policy being formulated by a few powerful national leaders in a top-down manner to satisfy their own motives.
Second, the KMT said the local economy has stagnated and has wondered why many Taiwanese are finding it impossible to accept the pact as a means to remove trade barriers between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait and strengthen bilateral cooperation.
However, those who oppose the trade pact feel that Taiwan’s economic stagnation is a result of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) inept leadership, saying that his ineptitude has resulted in an inability to stimulate private consumption and boost economic growth. They further say that these economic failings have nothing to do with the service trade agreement, which they claim will humiliate the nation and forfeit its sovereignty.
Third, the KMT also claims that Taiwan stands to gain more than it will lose by ratifying the cross-strait agreement and that the overall effect of the pact will be positive.
Despite that, those opposed to the agreement feel that if it will be so good for the nation, then the government should commission a comprehensive report on the domestic impact it will have so that the public can thoroughly understand all the benefits. By doing this, the government would clarify the public’s doubts over whether implementing the pact would adversely affect their jobs and salaries, and whether some are criticizing the pact just for the sake of opposing it.
However, instead of taking this route, the authorities have not offered the public any explanation on questions such as: After signing the pact, what are the possible problems that Taiwanese industry might face? How will the nation benefit from exporting services from certain sectors and how will it suffer from the import of services from other sectors? How should Taiwan’s service sectors react to these possible impacts and how should the nation use the agreement to strengthen its industrial competitiveness and increase economic growth? To this day, the public have yet to see or hear about any assessment being carried out on these key issues.
By failing to handle the signing of the service trade pact properly, the government has turned the agreement into a monster. The Ma administration should not blame its poor handling of the matter on public opposition to the pact.
Kuo Chen-hero is an adjunct professor in the School of Business at Soochow University.
Translated by Eddy Chang