Tue, Jul 09, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Amending trade agreement a democratic right: expert

By Chen Ching-min and Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

The addition of reservations and amendments by the legislature to provisions of the cross-strait service trade pact signed last month will not tarnish Taiwan’s international reputation, but rather demonstrate its status as a truly democratic nation, a law professor said yesterday.

“Bilateral agreements might prohibit reservations or amendments, but a democratic government is subject to legislative scrutiny and should be able to re-negotiate with the other treaty signatory over reservations and amendments recommended by its own legislature,” said Chiang Huang-chih (姜皇池), a professor at National Taiwan University.

Chiang said the renegotiation of the cross-strait agreement’s provisions has nothing to do with Taiwan’s international reputation, dismissing President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) comments that should the pact collapse, it could have an adverse impact on the nation’s international reputation.

The government should send the treaty to the legislative committees for review, while bringing the voices of experts and representatives from the local service industries into the process, Chiang said.

“The Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT] should not oppose the pact if it believes the agreement is beneficial to the country. Meanwhile, ruling party and opposition lawmakers should seek consensus as to which parts of the pact are acceptable and which parts are not,” Chiang said.

“They should then assess the pact from the perspective of Taiwan’s overall national interests before deciding whether to give the green light to the treaty,” Chiang said.

Amid public concern over the signing of the pact in Shanghai on June 21, lawmakers reached an agreement on June 25 on a clause-by-clause review and to vote separately on each of the articles and sector-specific commitments.

However, Ma and some Cabinet officials have warned against such an approach. Minister of Economic Affairs Chang Chia-juch (張家祝) said making amendments to signed agreements ran counter to international practice.

Straits Exchange Foundation Chairman Lin Join-sane (林中森) said that should the legislature reject some of the provisions, it would be tantamount to voting down the pact as a whole.

Chiang said Lin’s argument may be correct from the perspective of the law governing the signing of bilateral treaties, but Taiwan is a democratic country where bilateral agreements must be placed under legislative scrutiny.

“There is no treaty provision that cannot be amended [by the Legislative Yuan] unless the government is trying to turn the legislature into a figurehead and disregarding the democratic process,” Chiang said.

Chiang said the government only had to worry about whether the other signatory of the pact, China, would accept amendments made by the legislature.

“If China accepts the amendments, it will be the most beneficial scenario for Taiwan. If it does not, then there could be three possibilities: the legislature approving the original version of the pact; the collapse of the entire treaty; and China proposing its own amendments,” Chiang said.

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