Wang opposes CECA without review

NO RUBBER STAMP: The legislative speaker said any pact should be assessed by lawmakers first to avoid controversy as this would be more acceptable to the public

By Flora Wang and Jenny W. hsu  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Fri, Feb 27, 2009 - Page 1

It would be meaningless for the government to refer a cross-strait comprehensive economic cooperation agreement (CECA) to the legislature for review after signing it, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said yesterday.

“What can you do after the agreement is signed?” Wang asked, adding that once an agreement is signed, it would be nearly impossible for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus to reject it and send it back to the government.

The legislature’s review would be a mere formality, he said.

Wang made the remarks when asked for comment on the government’s plan to submit the CECA for review only after it has been signed.

Rather than signing a CECA first and then referring it for review, Wang said it would cause less controversy if the pact were debated in the legislature first. This would be more acceptable to the public, he said.

KMT caucus deputy secretary-general Lin Hung-chih (林鴻池) supported Wang’s statement. The government should invite the public to consider the content of any pact before it is signed, Lin said.

KMT Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇), however, said sending the agreement to the legislature once it has been signed would be “reasonable and legitimate.”

Asked whether the government would seek public consensus before signing a CECA, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) told the Taipei Times last week in an exclusive interview that the government would sign the pact and send it to the legislature for approval in accordance with Article 5 of the Act Governing Relations between the Peoples of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (台灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例).

Wang said the government should ensure that any agreement would be “pragmatic” and benefit both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

He also called on the Executive Yuan to submit a bill to legislators as soon as possible that would regulate the handling of cross-strait agreements.

At a separate setting yesterday, the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) urged Ma to lay out the pros and cons of signing a pact in a TV interview scheduled for today.

Signing a CECA with China would favor selected industries and special interest groups, while workers and small and medium-sized businesses would suffer, TSU Chairman Huang Kun-huei (黃昆輝) told a press conference yesterday.

Huang accused the Ma administration of fearmongering, saying it wanted to convince the public that Taiwan would be marginalized unless it signed a CECA with Beijing.

“The government has never fully explained what a CECA is all about. All we hear is government officials saying Taiwan will be doomed if it doesn’t sign a pact,” he said.

“Someone who refuses to inform the public but forces a policy down its throat is not qualified to lead a democratic country,” Huang said.

The Ma government has said a CECA with China is crucial to Taiwan’s economic growth, particularly as China will become a trade partner with ASEAN economies next year. As a trade partner, Chinese products will be tariff-free.

Huang dismissed the government’s argument, saying Taiwan need not fear economic marginalization because its high-tech industries do not compete directly with China and the ASEAN countries, which are considered original design manufacturing economies.

Taiwan should focus on signing a free-trade agreement (FTA) with Japan and the US, he said, because they are the nation’s biggest export markets.

“The government continues to threaten the public, [saying] that Taiwan will be ostracized and its economy will remain in a slump without a CECA with Beijing. I’d like to ask how they reached such a conclusion,” he said.

The Ma administration insists on comparing a CECA to the EU, Huang said, but it needs to ensure that the nation’s sovereignty will be safeguarded. Any pact cannot be signed under the “one China” framework that Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) has demanded.

In addition, Taiwan should follow the EU’s example by holding a referendum on the CECA, he said.

Huang said the government should first discuss the content of the pact with the legislature behind closed doors before starting negotiations with Beijing. After the talks with China, the pact should return to the legislature for further scrutiny and finally be put to a referendum, Huang said.

“Ma must tell the public the truth about a CECA and propose compensation plans for anyone that might be hurt by the pact. We will fight the government until the matter is resolved,” he said.

Cabinet Spokesman Su Jun-pin (蘇俊賓), in response to questions from reporters yesterday, said the government would elicit public opinion before signing a CECA and that the pact would not take effect without being ratified by the legislature.

“People have the right to know and the right not to be misled. The government will incorporate public opinion on the pact when negotiating the issue with China. The government will also make public all information and details of the pact,” Su said.

Su was more hesitant on Wang’s call for a bill that would set the procedures for sealing pacts with China — likely by strengthening the legislature’s influence.

“Whether such a bill is necessary is under deliberation, but the Executive Yuan and the legislature will work out a solution in this regard,” Su said.

Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said yesterday the government would handle cross-strait agreements in accordance with the law.

Separately, former Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) chairman Hong Chi-chang (洪奇昌) praised the government’s efforts to increase economic cooperation with China, but called on it to ensure national interests would not be affected by a CECA.

He also suggested that the government seek to sign an FTA with ASEAN countries.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SHIH HSIU-CHUAN AND MO YAN-CHIH