Fri, Oct 11, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Economist warns of dangers of service trade agreement

By Chen Yen-ting and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

National Taiwan University economics department chairwoman Jang Show-ling (鄭秀玲) yesterday called on the government to renegotiate the cross-strait service trade agreement because of what she called its unequal terms and violation of 2001 Nobel Economics Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz’s definition of free-trade agreements.

Taiwan and China inked the cross-strait service trade agreement in Shanghai in late June. If ratified by the Legislative Yuan, it will open up 55 non-financial services sub-sectors to Chinese investment, including printing, tourism, restaurants, packaging, delivery service, car rentals and the hair and beauty industry.

Jang said the agreement was completely against democratic principles, saying that President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration kept the nation in the dark by not holding public hearings about the agreement prior its signing, and also kept the legislature from being involved until after the signing.

“We are a democratic society governed by law; can the [Taiwanese] accept an agreement based on backroom deals?” Jang asked, adding that “the people are not against the Ma administration for dealing with China, but they are adamantly opposed to the Ma administration’s signing of an agreement with China that is riddled with serious flaws.”

Jang said that the agreement fulfilled none of Stiglitz’s definition of “basic principles” in free trade in an article published by Britain’s Guardian newspaper in July, explaining that “any trade agreement has to be symmetrical ... no trade agreement should put commercial interests ahead of broader national interests ... there must be a commitment to transparency.”

Opening up the beauty and hair sectors to China would harm local industries that are already at a disadvantage, Jang said, adding that allowing Chinese investment in printing and telecommunications posed risks to national security, as they were central to freedom of speech and privacy of communication.

The agreement would only benefit larger corporations and would have a destructive impact on the medium, small, and even micro, businesses that form 99 percent of Taiwan’s tertiary sector, she added.

When faced with Chinese companies — whose modus operandi is the monopolization of the entire market from production, manufacture, to distribution — as well as other domestic competitors backed by state-owned corporations, these industries would have no choice but to fall like dominos, Jang said, adding that the domino effect would directly affect more than 4 million Taiwanese workers.

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