The lack of information on the cross-strait service trade pact by the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and deprivation of the legislature’s and affected industries’ rights to voice their opinions and participate in the negotiation process for the agreement have infringed on democratic principles, academics said yesterday.
“The cross-strait pact could potentially put the livelihoods of many Taiwanese at risk. However, instead of including the legislature and representatives from all walks of life in its negotiations with China over the agreement, the Ma administration has turned a deaf ear to our repeated requests,” Taiwan Democracy Watch convener Hsu Wei-chun (徐偉群) said.
Hsu, an associate professor in Chung Yuan Christian University’s Department of Financial and Economic Law, said the treaty would be considered flawed until it followed legitimate procedures.
Hsu said that Ma had repeatedly labeled the opaque handling of the treaty — including keeping important information from the public and excluding the legislature and interested industries from negotiations — as “international norms,” while in fact they were merely part of his administration’s ploy to distort the truth and deceive the public.
“Such handling [of an international trade agreement] is not only unethical, but will also not withstand public scrutiny,” Hsu said.
Hsu said in a democracy the legislature and industries potentially affected by a cross-national agreement should have the right to be informed of and consulted about the government’s strategies for the treaty negotiations, with the former also entitled to examine and revise the agreement after its signing.
Turning to a debate on the cross-strait agreement between Ma and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) originally scheduled for Sunday last week, Hsu said it was mere political window dressing and would not help expose the treaty’s potentially adverse impact.
“The real solution lies in a thorough legislative review of the pact and its potential impact on all walks of life,” Hsu said.
The debate was canceled by Su on Sept. 11 amid growing controversy over Ma’s stance on allegations of improper lobbying against Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平).
Echoing Hsu’s views, Locus Publishing Co chairman Rex How (郝明義), who resigned as an adviser to Ma last month over what he said was the president’s autocratic handling of dissenting opinions on the treaty, said the real reason for Ma inviting Su to a debate was to use the occasion to whitewash his administration’s perceived misconduct in signing a closed-door deal.
“By holding a debate between leaders of the ruling and opposition parties, Ma ... would have been able to label the controversy surrounding the agreement as the result of a political struggle between the pan-blue and pan-green camps,” How said.
Letting Ma openly debate the pact would only shift the focus away from other government agencies involved in the treaty’s inking, adding that such agencies were obligated to give the public an explanation as the loophole-plagued agreement had led to many protests, How said.