Fri, Jul 02, 2010 - Page 1 News List

ECFA a ‘quasi-treaty’: government officials

BY SHIH HSIU-CHUAN, FLORA WANG AND VINCENT Y. CHAO  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The government yesterday defined the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) signed with China as a quasi-treaty and said the legislature could ratify or reject it as a package, but could not amend its contents article by article.

Executive Yuan Spokesman Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) made the remarks at a press conference following a Cabinet meeting yesterday that approved the ECFA and an agreement on Intellectual Property Rights protection (IPR) that was also signed with China on Tuesday.

Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), who had previously said the ECFA was “more like a treaty,” was at odds with Legislative Speaker Wang Jyn-ping (王金平), who said the ECFA was an agreement and not a quasi-treaty, yesterday modified his stance on the matter, saying the ECFA was “not a kind of treaty,” but that its “contents, appearance and the nature of the ECFA makes it look similar to a treaty.”

Chiang did not cite stipulations in the Constitution, legislation, or rules when pressed by media on what basis the government defined the ECFA as a quasi-treaty.

“There are precedents for the ECFA. [For one], it deals with foreign affairs,” Chiang said.

Under the Constitution, the Executive Yuan is required to refer a treaty to the legislature for deliberation before it takes effect.

There is no legislation governing procedures for reviewing a treaty in the legislature, but per precedent, lawmakers can ratify or reject a treaty as a package after holding a question-and-answer session with officials on the deal.

Despite saying the ECFA was not a treaty, Wu said the legislature can only vote to ratify or reject the ECFA and not review it article by article.

The government referred the ECFA and the IPR protection agreement to the legislature in accordance with Paragraph 2 of Article 5 in the Act Governing the Relations Between the Peoples of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (兩岸人民關係條例), Chiang said.

The Cabinet meeting yesterday also approved amendments to four laws — the Patent Act (專利法), the Customs Import Tariff Act (海關進口稅則), the Plant Variety and Plant Seed Act (植物品種及種苗法) and the Trademark Act (商標法) — and referred them to the legislature for review to bring rules in line with the ECFA and the IPR agreement.

At a separate setting yesterday, Wang said it would be “very difficult” for the ECFA to clear the legislative floor.

The legislature is expected to call a provisional session on Monday at the earliest to screen and finalize the format in which the ECFA will be reviewed.

Wang said that even though the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) holds a majority in the legislature, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) could still resort to procedural strategy to block the agreement from being put to a vote.

“Even if the KMT owns a majority of seats, it cannot get whatever it wants all the time,” Wang said.

Wang also dismissed reports that he disagreed with the president on the nature of the ECFA, despite saying on Wednesday that the ECFA is an agreement, not a quasi-treaty as defined by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).

Wang said the legislature had the right to determine the form of the ECFA review, adding that it must not violate the Constitution or any laws when reviewing the pact.

He declined to comment about the DPP caucus plan to propose a bill regulating cross-strait deals and the establishment of a special committee to scrutinize the implementation of the ECFA.

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