President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday agreed to allow the legislature to review the controversial Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) clause by clause, but insisted that the trade pact should be voted on as a whole.
Presidential Office Spokesman Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強) said Ma had reached a consensus with Vice President Vincent Siew (蕭萬長), Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Vice Chairman Chan Chun-po (詹春柏) during a weekly lunch at the Presidential Office yesterday.
Lo said the five KMT heavyweights exchanged opinions on the bills that the legislature intends to deal with during a provisional legislative session, which is likely to begin on Aug. 16.
The bills include the ECFA, an agreement on intellectual property rights protection, and amendments to the University Act (大學法) and the Vocational School Act (專科學校法) that would allow Taiwanese schools to accept Chinese students, the Local Government Act (地制法) and the second-generation national health insurance program.
On the review of the ECFA, Lo said all the participants agreed that the legislature should proceed following four main principles: Wu would report to the legislature and answer legislators’ questions; the legislature would review the agreement clause by clause; the accord must be voted on in its entirety; and the legislature could attach a rider to the agreement if necessary.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the KMT have yet to resolve the controversy over how to review the ECFA during the provisional session.
The DPP caucus has said the agreement should be screened clause by clause, with votes on every article. However, the KMT caucus says the legislature does not have the power to unilaterally alter the agreement and can only endorse or reject it as a whole.
The legislature held its first extraordinary legislative session last month, but KMT and DPP lawmakers scuffled after disagreeing on whether the ECFA should be reviewed clause by clause. The clashes left one KMT legislator bleeding, while a DPP lawmaker suffered a broken rib.
The DPP later withdrew from the session after the KMT majority upheld an announcement by Wang that the ECFA and the cross-strait copyright protection agreement would skip a preliminary review.
During last month’s special session, the KMT caucus also resolved not to invite the premier to brief the legislature and answer lawmakers’ questions regarding the ECFA.
DPP spokesperson Tsai Chi-chang (蔡其昌) said the opposition remained dissatisfied with the president’s decision.
He said the DPP would not give up on its demand that lawmakers be given the authority to initiate a clause-by-clause vote on the agreement.
“If the ECFA brings as many benefits as the government claims, what’s stopping them from agreeing to our request?” Tsai said. “What’s so special about it that we still can’t properly review this agreement?”
Additional reporting by Vincent Y. Chao
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