The legislative caucuses yesterday reached a consensus to conduct an item-by-item review of a cross-strait service trade pact to decide whether to approve the agreement.
The caucus whips of all parties signed a paper saying that the service trade agreement between Taiwan and China, signed on Friday last week in Shanghai, will not take effect without being ratified by the legislature.
Against the government’s wishes — that the legislature review and vote on the agreement as a whole — the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus conceded to the demand by their Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) counterparts that each provision be voted on separately.
The agreement, under which China will open 80 of its service sectors to Taiwanese investors while Taiwan will open 64 sectors, contains 24 articles and sector-specific commitments, ranging from commerce, telecommunications, construction and distribution to the environment, health, tourism, entertainment, culture, sports, transportation and finance.
TSU caucus whip Hsu Chung-hsin (許忠信) said that the agreement was more likely to be rejected by the legislature if each provision was put to a separate vote than if the agreement were voted on as a whole.
If the agreement is voted on as a whole, people whose livelihoods may be affected by the pact will see their opposition to the agreement overridden by those who favor it because the latter will push lawmakers to ratify the pact, Hsu said.
DPP caucus whip Ker Chein-ming (柯建銘) said that if any of the provisions or commitments covered under the agreement were rejected by the legislature, the whole agreement would be annulled.
That would mean cross-strait negotiations over the opening of the service sector will have to “start from scratch,” Ker said.
Citing the Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (台灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例), the government has said that the agreement does not require legislative approval to become effective. However, it has also said that it would respect the legislature’s rights of rectification.
On Saturday, when asked whether the government would renegotiate with China if part of the agreement were rejected by the legislature, Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) only said that any revisions made by the legislature would make it difficult to implement the pact.
He urged the legislature to deal with the service trade pact the same way it handled the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) three years ago.
In August 2010, when the ECFA was reviewed by the legislature, the DPP proposed 18 counterproposals to revise the name, preamble and all provisions under the ECFA, but they were all voted down by the KMT.
The KMT then proposed a motion that the ECFA be voted on as a whole. DPP lawmakers boycotted the vote and the ECFA was ratified by the legislature.
The council did not respond yesterday to the latest legislative decision regarding the review of the services pact.