The pan-green camp yesterday said the opaque nature of the cross-strait service trade agreement has made business owners confused and the scheduled debate next month between President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) would be unfair.
Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) Chairman Huang Kun-huei (黃昆輝) told a press conference that Su is already at a disadvantage in the debate about the pact, scheduled for next month, because people outside of Ma’s policymaking circle have received only very limited information about the agreement.
“The debate is going to be unfair for Chairman Su because of the information asymmetry, thus offering Ma an opportunity to pull himself out of the current mire,” Huang said.
“The administrative branch has never provided a comprehensive introduction to the agreement, which covers hundreds of service sectors. The only thing it sent to the legislature was the full text and the appendixes of the pact,” he added.
The DPP legislative caucus also raised concerns at a separate news conference about the Ma administration’s handling of the pact almost two months after it was signed, saying that many government officials, as well as small business owners, remained confused about the extent of liberalization under the agreement.
Citing the example of the jewelry industry, DPP Legislator Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) said that not only were jewelry store owners unsure whether the sector was to be liberalized under the pact, but so was a senior official in the Department of Commerce under the Ministry of Economic Affairs, who was quoted as saying that the jewelry sub-sector “could be on the list.”
Asked about the potential impact of the agreement on the sector, the official was quoted as saying: “The estimated impact should be small, otherwise we would be hearing a lot of complaints from people in the [jewelry] sector. ”
The answer showed how little many officials know about the agreement, under which 64 local service industry sub-sectors will be opened to Chinese investment, while China will open up 80 sectors to Taiwan, Gao said.
The lawmaker said the caucus supported the debate between Su and Ma and would try to defend the public’s interests on the other front line — the Legislative Yuan — when the pact is screened clause-by-clause in the new session.
In related news, both the DPP and the TSU said they would support the recall campaign initiated by the civic group Constitution 133 Alliance, which was recently established with the goal of recalling legislators it sees as incompetent.
DPP spokesperson Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) said the party fully supports the campaign and would contact the alliance and offer assistance in the alliance’s petition drive.
The TSU said it would launch a petition drive to recall KMT Legislator Wu Yu-cheng (吳育昇), who was named by the alliance as the first candidate of the recall campaign on Sunday because of what it said was his consistent alignment with Ma, rather than with the public he is meant to serve, in Wu’s constituency in New Taipei City (新北市).
The TSU plans to unveil its own recall candidates “when the time is ripe,” the party said.