The government and the opposition have agreed that the final public hearing for the proposed cross-strait service trade pact must be completed by March 10, after which the Legislative Yuan’s Internal Administration Committee is to review the pact clause by clause, line by line.
However, on the eve of the debate, when the party caucus was reviewing which committees legislators wanted to participate in during the new legislative session, three Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators — Chang Ching-chung (張慶忠), Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) and Hsu Hsin-ying (徐欣瑩), all of whom who have served on the committee for 10 years — signed up for other committees, no longer willing to sit on the Internal Administration Committee. This has flung the party’s legislative troops into disarray, leaving them confused about how to proceed with pushing the pact through.
When President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) — who also serves as KMT chairman — attended a seminar several days ago on Taiwan’s strategy for joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), he reiterated his desire to see the cross-strait service trade pact passed within the current legislative session.
“This is a goal that, over the next six months, I expect the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Mainland Affairs Council and the Council of Agriculture to do their utmost to achieve,” he said.
Ma was at pains to emphasize the importance of both this agreement and of the proposed cross-strait trade in goods agreement, saying that the nation’s chances of participating in the TPP and the RCEP rested upon how well the party dealt with getting these agreements signed, sealed and delivered.
However, everyone is aware that the service trade pact will inflict grievous harm on the unique character and development of Taiwan’s service industry and the majority of the general public in this country have already woken up to this: The number of Taiwanese who oppose the service trade pact exceeds those who approve of it.
Few among the KMT executive echelon, and especially the party’s legislators, are willing to keep discussing the service trade pact, which they believe may already be dead in the water, as they have their minds on the next legislative elections and know which way the wind of public opinion is blowing. Why, after all, make enemies of the people who elect you, unless of course, like Ma, you do not have to worry about being elected for another term?
When interviewed about his wish to leave the Internal Administration Committee, Chang said it was because he would prefer to serve on the Transportation and Communications Committee, which is more related to local infrastructure and public construction projects. Asked about the apparent mass exodus from the Internal Administration Committee, Chang said that the issue was the concern of the party caucus.
Ma insists, purely for the sake of his own legacy and counter to what the public wants, on pushing through the cross-strait service trade and trade in goods agreements.
The state of affairs is enough to make you feel sorry for these KMT legislators, who have their hands tied and are being forced to make arguments they neither believe in nor want to make, as they are worried about their prospects for re-election.
They must be wondering what they have done to deserve a party chairman like Ma.
Kuo Chen-hero is an adjunct professor of economics at Soochow University.
Translated by Paul Cooper