Following Kaohsiung City Government’s recent refusal of a Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) request to promote an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China, a number of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)-administered local governments have followed suit and say they will reject requests for help from the CLA to promote the proposed cross-strait trade pact.
In a written statement issued yesterday, Yilan County Commissioner Lin Tsung-hsien (林聰賢) said the county government’s Department of Labor Affairs would not help the CLA promote an ECFA.
“As a government agency in charge of serving all workers, the Department of Labor Affairs is currently fully occupied with what it is supposed to be doing according to the law — and that does not include promoting an ECFA,” Lin’s statement said.
He added that, since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has said that signing an ECFA would not have an impact on the labor market in Taiwan, “certainly the county government is not required to help promote it.”
Both Tainan Mayor Hsu Tai-tsai (?]) and Tainan County Commissioner Su Huan-chih (蘇煥智) have also said they would refuse to cooperate with the CLA. DPP commissioners in Chiayi, Yunlin, Kaohsiung and Pingtung counties also expressed concern over the trade pact, although they have not yet said whether they will follow in Kaohsiung City’s footsteps.
In response to Kaohsiung City Government’s Labor Bureau Director Chung Kung-chao’s (鍾孔炤) comments on Tuesday that his bureau had decided not to comply with the CLA’s request to promote an ECFA at the city’s employment services centers because the public remained widely divided on the issue, the CLA issued a press release at 1am on Wednesday expressing its regret over the issue.
Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) yesterday denied the city government was “defying” a CLA directive, stressing the city government should enjoy equal footing with the central government.
“The central government and local governments should be partners,” Chen told reporters in Kaohsiung. “Whenever there is a difference of opinion, the central government should communicate with local governments instead of forcing local governments to comply [with the central government requests.]”
While CLA Vice Minister Pan Shih-wei (潘世偉) said local governments could not refuse to cooperate on the grounds that employment centers were meant to help workers solve employment-related problems, Chen said it was more important for the central government to allow the centers to help workers cope with other challenges and unemployment rather than to oblige them to promote an ECFA.
“Up to 60 percent or 70 percent of people still do not understand the content of an ECFA, so the issue remains debatable. We cannot simply say nice things about it,” Chen said.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Yang Li-huan (楊麗環) yesterday urged CLA Minister Jennifer Wang (王如玄) not to give in.
DPP Legislator Huang Sue-ying (黃淑英), on the other hand, stood behind the Kaohsiung City Government’s position and said: “It’s extremely improper to make the authorities that are meant to help with unemployment require members of the public to [understand] an ECFA before they hand out subsidies.”
DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) said: “Kaohsiung City Government is an autonomous local government. Of course it has the right to refuse to cooperate on marketing an ECFA, I don’t see a problem with that.”