Sun, Dec 22, 2013 - Page 8 News List

Public stance on ‘backroom deals’

By Lai Chung-chiang 賴中強

The current legislative session is about to come to an end and there are still four public hearings pending for the cross-strait service trade agreement being promoted so hard by the government.

Following the standard timetable, the agreement would only be reviewed during the next legislative session.

However, judging from the following, the government is waiting for an opportunity to pounce and overturn the decision reached by the ruling and opposition parties at any time and push it through the legislature.

First, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus whip Lin Te-fu (林德福) recently stated that he does not exclude the possibility of recommending that the legislature process the service trade agreement on Dec. 21, while KMT Policy Committee head Lin Hung-chih (林鴻池) has said he hopes the agreement will pass the third reading before the end of the current legislative session [Editor’s note: KMT legislative caucus whip Lin Te-fu (林德福) said on Friday that the KMT has backed away from its plan to call an extra legislative session next month to push through the trade agreement, meaning that the review process for the deal would not begin until March].

Second, in a report about the timetable for a meeting between Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) and China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Director Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) a few days ago, the Central News Agency quoted individuals involved in cross-strait affairs as saying that because the legislature might hold an extraordinary session to review the service trade agreement, the possibility of a “Wang and Zhang meeting” taking place before the Lunar New Year is not high.

Third, both President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) have made it clear that the service trade agreement needs to pass through the legislature quickly.

It is clear that the government will not stop trying to push the agreement through the legislature and as a result, civic groups must respond.

Lunar New Year’s Eve falls on Jan. 30 next year. Therefore, the deadline for passing the service trade agreement during the current legislative session is to hold a three-day extraordinary session between Jan. 27 and 29. According to an agreement between the legislative caucuses, the negotiation period on a single issue should be one month, which would mean that the government must make the legislature complete its review or send it to a second reading on Thursday at the latest if it wants the agreement to be passed during the current legislative session.

Therefore, this week, the Democratic Front Against Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement and other civic groups have been hosting events opposing backroom deals about the service trade agreement.

Today, we will hold a demonstration against the service trade agreement being pushed through the legislature and demand an end to legislative backroom deals to warn the government that it will not be able to push the service trade agreement through the legislature in subsequent legislative and Cabinet meetings.

We will also make our stance clear that legislation is necessary to bring an end to backroom deals and that without legislation, the legislature should refuse to review the service trade agreement.

There are three reasons for this. First, there are no regulations for trade liberalization impact assessments and remedies. The government’s impact assessment was a shoddy piece of work, backroom discussions continue, and the NT$98 billion (US$33.5 million) meant for dealing with the impact of trade liberalization has been blown, while grassroots businesses and workers are helpless. Second, there are no regulations for the signing and monitoring of cross-strait agreements in place.

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