A legislative committee yesterday voted down a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) motion to include a clause in a proposed economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China that Beijing promises not to block Taipei from signing free-trade agreements (FTA) with other countries.
The government hopes to sign the controversial trade pact with China next month or in June. The two sides concluded the second round of negotiations in Taoyuan last week.
Capitalizing on their numerical advantage, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) members of the legislature's Internal Administration Committee voted four to two against the DPP proposal demanding that the government drop plans to ink an ECFA if Beijing refused to promise in writing not to obstruct other countries from signing FTAs with Taiwan.
KMT members also struck down a DPP motion asking the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) and other government agencies to provide the draft content of the agreement and a draft of “early harvest” items for legislative oversight. The drafts would help industries and workers hit by the trade deal make early preparations for any negative impact, the DPP said.
The committee also vetoed a proposal that the formal English translation of the pact, if signed, would use the word “agreement” — and not “arrangement,” as in the economic accord signed between China and Hong Kong.
KMT Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇), who chaired yesterday’s committee meeting, ruled against a DPP request to postpone the meeting until the MAC and other government agencies provided the committee with detailed information such as the content of the agreement, the “early harvest” list and an ECFA assessment report.
DPP legislators offered to hold a closed-door meeting if the council could not make the list public. Wu turned down the proposal.
The meeting got off to a rough start when DPP lawmakers refused to hear reports by MAC Chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) and other officials, saying the reports were merely a “journal account” of the two-day negotiations in Taoyuan and did not contain anything substantial.
The question-and-answer session did not begin until 80 minutes into the meeting.
Lai irked many DPP lawmakers by interrupting their questions or refusing to stop talking. At one point, DPP Legislator Chiu Yi-ying (邱議瑩) pounded the table and told Lai to “shut up.”
Chiu also accused Lai of lying about the negative impact the trade deal might have on white-collar workers.
“You describe the concerns as ‘crying wolf,’ but you probably don’t know how the fable The Boy Who Cried Wolf ends,” she said. “In the end, the wolf does come.”
Lai turned down the proposal that China should promise not to block Taiwan from signing FTAs with other countries, saying Taiwan does not need China’s approval to sign trade deals with other countries.
An ECFA is “purely” an economic issue, not political, Lai said.
While both sides are still negotiating the deal, Lai said it was normal to include a “termination clause” in an ECFA.
She also dismissed DPP Legislator Chen Ming-wen's (陳明文) comparison of her council to the KMT’s public relations office, saying that her comments on the ECFA were “the truth,” not “propaganda.”
On early harvest items, Lai said the two sides did not exchange lists during the recent negotiations.
Bureau of Foreign Trade Director-General Huang Chih-peng (黃志鵬) added that while flat display panels would be included in Taiwan’s list, they would be a “second priority,” without elaborating.
Meanwhile, DPP legislators William Lai (賴清德) and Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) alleged that the council paid local magazine The Journalist NT$90,000 (US$2.850) for an advertisement promoting the ECFA.
Lai Shin-yuan said she would shoulder any responsibility, including stepping down, if it were proven that the two-page article was an advertisement and that the council spent money on it.
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