Pan-green camp threaten a recall over service pact

‘COMPLETELY IGNORED’::The DPP and TSU said they would move to recall Ma if the pact was put to a vote as a package, demanding an article-by-article review

By Chris Wang and Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporters

Tue, Jun 25, 2013 - Page 1

Talk of recalling President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) re-emerged in the pan-green camp as the opposition said Ma had “completely ignored” the people’s interests in the signing of a service trade pact with Beijing that could have devastating effects on local businesses.

“If Ma insists on pushing the agreement through the legislature, which under the Constitution could initiate a recall proposal, it is time to recall him,” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said after a meeting with representatives of Chinese herbal medicine associations yesterday.

The Chinese herbal sector was among the 64 local industries that Taiwan will open to Chinese investment under the pact, which politicians and businesspeople said was signed on Friday without prior consultation with the local sectors, comprehensive assessment or transparency.

Su, who began a series of meetings with representatives from the affected sectors to discuss the potential damage, pledged that the DPP caucus would demand clause-by-clause screening and voting on the agreement.

The Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) agreed with the DPP, with its party headquarters announcing its intention to propose to recall Ma again following a failed attempt last year.

A recall proposal by the opposition was blocked by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in May last year, days before the end of Ma’s first term.

“If the KMT insisted on putting the pact to a vote as a package, I believe the recall proposal will be submitted,” TSU Legislator Lin Shih-chia (林世嘉), adding that the party requested Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) report to the legislature and Ma to make a state of the nation address.

Pan-green politicians continued to criticize the government for what they described as the lack of transparency and hastiness of the controversial agreement, a follow-up to the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) signed in 2010.

Former DPP chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said in a press release that the agreement should be monitored in the legislature according to the highest standards because the service sector would be the backbone of Taiwan’s economy in the future.

Tsai said Taiwanese could not accept Ma appealing to Beijing without regard for their voices, adding that Beijing could try to gain strategic advantages by controlling key sectors and influencing Taiwan’s society and job market.

The pact should not be put to a vote as a package and those inappropriate clauses should be removed or revised, Tsai said, adding that Taiwan “should do whatever it takes to make the agreement right, even if it means the government has to renegotiate with Beijing.”

Meanwhile, the Ma administration should present an overall strategy for the service sector and a complete set of supporting measures for the service trade pact, she said.

Having studied the text of the pact, DPP Legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) yesterday said that there were at least six flaws that put Taiwan at a disadvantage, including China’s subsidies to domestic businesses and the lack of domestic legislation supporting foreign businesses, which would become another form of non-tariff barriers.

Yunlin County Commissioner Su Chi-fen (蘇治芬) said she refused to recognize and implement the agreement.

A joint statement released by several civic groups, including Taiwan Democracy Watch, demanded the government hold off on the agreement until the legislature finishes its review, saying that if the Executive Yuan failed to do so, lawmakers should file a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet.

Meanwhile, legislators from the pan-green camp said the KMT would experience difficulties in pushing what it deems urgent bills through the legislature in the extra session.

DPP Legislator Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said the amendment to the Income Tax Act (所得稅法), designed to drop the 8,500-point threshold that would automatically trigger a capital gains tax on securities transactions, might be the only one passed in today’s plenary session.

The DPP hoped that only the tax amendment would be addressed in the extra session because all the other draft legislation on the agenda of the session, decided by the KMT, “would do the nation more harm than good,” Ker said.

TSU caucus whip Hsu Chung-hsin (許忠信) said the TSU would try to block all bills, except amendments to the Income Tax act.

The TSU has vowed to paralyze legislative proceedings in the extra session to force the KMT to agree to its three demands on the service trade pact.

The three demands were that provisions under the service trade agreement be reviewed and voted on article-by-article by the legislature, that Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) present it at a question-and-answer session with lawmakers and that the pact be a priority in an extra legislative session next month or in August.

Only if the KMT agreed to review only the amendments to the act would the TSU refrain from blocking the plenary meeting today, Hsu said.

The extra session was scheduled to end on Thursday, with a plenary meeting for second and third readings of bills set for today only.

Other than the Income Tax Act, the KMT wished to push through amendments to Public Debt Act (公共債務法) concerning budget allocations for local governments, to enact a senior secondary education act (高級中等教育法) as a legal basis for the planned 12-year education scheme and to pass the proposal to hold national referendum to decide the fate of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao District (貢寮), New Taipei City (新北市).

If the plenary session can proceed smoothly, the KMT-proposed amendment to the Income Tax Act is expected to be voted on although there are still some points of disagreement among lawmakers.

The DPP and the TSU agreed on removing the requirement that the TAIEX surpass 8,500 points for the tax to be imposed on most individual investors and to imposing the tax only on investors who sell NT$1 billion (US$33.3 million) worth of shares during one calendar year instead.

The DPP, TSU and some KMT lawmakers disagreed with the KMT’s version of the amendment, in which investors are taxed based on actual gains from initial public offerings.

The People First Party (PFP) has its own version of the amendment which is to impose a tax on annual capital gains of more than NT$4 million for individual investors.

If this is not accepted, the capital gains tax should not be enacted on any investor no matter how much they earn, the PFP said.