Wed, Jan 15, 2014 - Page 8 News List

DPP not to blame for gridlocked trade pact

By Kuo Chen-hero 郭振鶴

With the service trade agreement still stuck in the legislature, it is not hard to tell it is in quite a predicament. During his New Year’s Day address, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) reiterated the government’s commitment to boosting the economy. Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) spokesman Yang Wei-chung (楊偉中) recently told the opposition in no uncertain terms that he hopes they stop “maliciously” blocking the agreement.

However, the KMT cannot place all the blame for the agreement’s lack of progress on the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) opposition. The real reason the agreement has not gone anywhere is that the KMT has been unable to reach a consensus on the matter within its own ranks and because KMT legislators have not actively promoted it. This is evident from the two following points.

First, none of the KMT’s political appointees or legislators have expressed a comprehensive opinion or given a detailed explanation of the agreement.

This is a pity, since it would allow people to gain a better understanding of what it entails.

Even KMT ministerial-level officials and legislators seem to lack confidence in the agreement and do not necessarily agree with it.

It is little wonder that support for the agreement keeps dwindling in opinion polls, which has left the KMT not knowing what to do.

Within the KMT, apart from Ma delivering a serious talk on the issue, not even the premier, the legislative speaker or financial and economic political appointees have expressed their opinions on the agreement, and have wittingly or unwittingly dodged the entire issue.

This shows that the signing of the agreement was not the result of a consensus reached through a bottom-up decisionmaking process, but rather a decision made by a small minority.

Second, if the benefits of the pact really outweigh the disadvantages, surely the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Council for Economic Planning and Development, the Mainland Affairs Council and the Straits Exchange Foundation would have already discussed the agreement, and not just once, but several times, with the various industry and commerce groups after it was signed in June last year.

However, no such related department has commented on the issue, which shows that there is no way that related departments can convince people about the agreement now that it has already been signed, and it also shows that a consensus on the matter was never reached.

Most Taiwanese have heard nothing about the content of the informative meetings held by the government after the deal was signed.

The government has never conducted a thorough analysis, which should include the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats the agreement poses to all the industries concerned.

Nor has the government explained to the public what type of problems each different industry will have to think about once the agreement takes effect and what the effects of the deregulation of each industry will have on the nation’s economy.

The government has also failed to tell the Taiwanese services sub-sectors what they can do to protect themselves against the possible threats posed by the agreement, how to respond to it and how to use it to boost the competitiveness of their respective industries. These are key points that the KMT must reach a consensus on internally and then, and only then, promote the service trade agreement, instead of just blaming those who oppose it.

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