Sat, Jan 23, 2010 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: ECFA will help Taiwan catch up with Asia: Ma

President Ma Ying-jeou spoke with several ‘Taipei Times’ reporters in an interview at the Presidential Office on Thursday, expounding on his government’s plan to sign an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China. He tried to allay public qualms over the proposed pact, while emphasizing that an ECFA would be a crucial lever that would allow Taiwan to sign free-trade agreements with other countries

Discussing putting the proposal to a vote helped unite party legislators and resolved differences from within the party. Hopefully the KMT caucus would adopt the same method in the future when seeking to pass major bills: Have lots of communication within the party before presenting the bills.

TT: The KMT has taken a tougher approach in handling the passage of the amendment to the Local Government Act and the Environmental Protection Administration’s (EPA) planned policy to fine people who smoke while walking or driving. You’ve said the party was merely communicating with government bodies about policies via the party-­administration platform, but there is still concern that the KMT’s clout is growing over the government.

Ma: I think that’s far from the truth. Let me ask you, what role should a political party play? In democratic politics, the job of a political party is to help a group of people reach consensus and convey that consensus. Political parties are election machines to help members hold on to the reins of government. In modern society, however, it is also important for a political party to be involved in legislative affairs and policy coordination after coming into power.

[In the case of the planned smoking policy,] King called Executive Yuan Secretary-General Lin Join-sane (林中森), not EPA Minister Stephen Shen (沈世宏). It is perfectly normal and proper for the KMT secretary-general to communicate with the Executive Yuan secretary-general to convey public opinions to his Executive Yuan counterpart, and he should do so often. The Executive Yuan ­secretary-general is also a member of the KMT’s central standing committee. He attends weekly committee meetings and the Zhongshan meetings, and talks to King constantly.

TT: But it gives an impression that the proposal was adjusted because of one call from King and there was no discussion.

Ma: The EPA did not change the proposed policy, and it is still under review. When King called Lin to complain about the policy, Shen was in Lin’s office at the time. Shen and King were colleagues and they know each other well. They call each other by nicknames.

King conveyed public opinions to Shen over the phone, but Shen did not completely agree with his comments. They even had some argument about the issue. King also called Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) later, suggesting that the executive branch should consider public complaints about the proposal before turning it into policy.

I think that this kind of ­communication is good, and [the party and the government] should have this kind of communication to make a policy comprehensive.

TT: True, it is normal that the secretaries-general of the Presidential Office, the KMT and the Executive Yuan would communicate with one another. However, what happened was later the same day that King called, the EPA announced it would hold off on the planned policy. Supposedly the proper process would be that the EPA minister reports to the Executive Yuan, has a discussion on the matter at the Cabinet’s meeting and awaits the premier’s directive.

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