Mon, Dec 01, 2008 - Page 3 News List

SEF pacts likely to miss deadline

CUTTING IT CLOSE The KMT caucus was scheduled to meet this morning to decide whether to require its legislators to attend committee reviews of the agreements

By Flora Wang And Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus will decide today whether to smooth the way for four cross-strait agreements in legislative committee reviews this week, KMT caucus deputy secretary-general Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾) said yesterday. It was unclear whether a deadline would be met to put them to a legislative vote.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers have accused the KMT of stalling reviews of the agreements — which were signed by the Straits Exchange Foundation and China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait last month — to avoid putting them to a legislative vote, which would lead to their enactment by default.

The KMT caucus was scheduled to meet this morning to decide whether to require legislators to attend the committee reviews of the pacts, which concern direct sea links, daily charter flights and postal services, along with food safety.

In a telephone interview, Lo said the caucus would help the government push through the agreements.

The Dec. 13 deadline for a vote should be met, Lo said.

But despite Lo’s statement, this seemed very unlikely.

The agreements are scheduled to be reviewed at joint meetings of the Internal Administration Committee, the Transportation Committee, the Foreign and National Defense Committee and the Health, Environment and Labor Committee on Wednesday and Thursday.

They were first submitted to the legislature on Nov. 13. On Nov. 21, the KMT sent the agreements to the committees for review.

Article 95 of the Statute Governing the Relations Between the Peoples of the Taiwan Area and Mainland Area (台灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例) stipulates that the legislature must accept or reject any agreement on cross-strait trade or direct transportation links within one month of receiving it from the government. However, any agreement becomes effective automatically if the legislature does not sanction it before that deadline.

Even if the committees complete the reviews this week, the agreements must then go to the Procedure Committee, which meets on Dec. 9, to be put on the plenary agenda for Dec. 12.

The legislature may not get to vote on the four agreements at the plenary session given the number of bills pending legislative review.

In addition, if enough KMT legislators choose not attend the reviews this week, the committees will not be able to carry out the reviews.

DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said yesterday that the DPP caucus would not accept stalling the reviews because it would mean passing the agreements by default.

The DPP caucus has said that Taiwan stands to gain very little through the agreements, while putting its interests at risk.

To prevent an “autocratic” government, Ker said the DPP caucus had proposed a bill in October that would require any cross-strait agreements concerning “critical national interests” to be decided by Taiwanese voters in a referendum.

Under the bill, the Executive Yuan would be required to submit a draft of any agreement with China to the legislature before signing it.

The draft would then need to be negotiated and passed by the appropriate legislative committees before being put to a popular vote.

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