The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday criticized comments President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) made in an interview which touched on the possibility of meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) next year and saying that the cross-strait service trade agreement cannot be renegotiated, as some have requested.
The Hong Kong-based Chinese-language Yazhou Zhoukan quoted Ma as saying he would love to meet Xi at the APEC summit in Beijing next year and make a “historical breakthrough in cross-strait relations,” while rejecting that the service trade pact can be altered because “Taiwan is not like the US” in that it cannot unilaterally demand that an agreement be changed by using its economic strength.
“The interview was strange in that Ma appears to have been speaking for Chinese interests throughout its duration, be it the ‘one China’ principle, the service trade agreement or China’s air defense identification zone,” DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said yesterday.
“Ma would rather meet Xi, who is thousands of kilometers away, than those Taiwanese who are suffering from land expropriations, factory closures and [will bear] the negative impacts of the service trade deal, which is not right,” Su added.
At a press conference held at the party headquarters, DPP Department of China Affairs director Honigmann Hong (洪財隆) said the president’s comments regarding the cross-strait deal were inappropriate and incorrect.
In the interview, Ma reportedly said that international agreements are rarely, if ever, renegotiated and that in the case of the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement signed in 2007 — known as the KORUS FTA — it was Washington rather than Seoul that proposed renegotiations.
“Ma has to realize that the legislature — not the president — is the constitutional institution which has the final say on exterior agreements in democratic countries,” he said.
While neither Washington nor Seoul used the term “renegotiation” when altering their free-trade deal, the pact was not ratified in the nations’ respective legislatures due to disagreements and opposition from the public on both sides, Hong said.
Hong added that the most important factor — and No. 1 reason Taiwanese are skeptical about the cross-strait agreement — is that the trade pact negotiations were conducted without prior consultation with the public and in the absence of legislative monitoring.
A meeting between the leaders on either side of the Taiwan Strait would be “serious business” and if Ma was sincere about making a meeting with Xi happen, he would first have to offer a clear explanation to Taiwanese about “what political issues are at stake and what he would do for such a meeting,” former DPP chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said on the sidelines of an event organized by her foundation yesterday.
“Ma would have to inform the public on what positive impact the meeting would have on cross-strait relations and, hopefully, make the process of arranging the summit as transparent as possible,” she said.
On Ma’s assertion that renegotiating the cross-strait trade pact is impossible, Tsai said the president should not have ruled out the possibility because there are lots of precedents for the renegotiation of international agreements.
“It’s only natural for adjustments to be made and the content of an agreement altered if the legislature or the public are not satisfied with a deal. It is not strange to see negotiations going back and forth between both sides, as was the case in the free-trade agreement inked between South Korea and the US, as well as Taiwan’s accession to the WTO,” she added.