The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) yesterday accused the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of playing a trick on it after the ruling party was caught by surprise when it found that a DPP legislator has set the first committee review of the cross-strait service trade agreement for this week.
“Given that we have acquiesced to the opposition parties’ demands that the agreement be subjected to a line-by-line review and subsequently voted on article by article, the DPP should not have played this trick on us,” KMT caucus whip Lin Hung-chih (林鴻池) said yesterday.
DPP Legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁), one of the two conveners of the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee, on Friday scheduled a review of the agreement to take place on Wednesday and Thursday.
According to legislative precedent, the committee’s other convener, KMT Legislator Chang Ching-chung (張慶忠), should take charge of the pact’s review because it was the KMT which advocated the agreement, not the DPP, Lin said.
The caucus whip said he could not predict how the DPP would handle the review process during the committee stage, but that he knew the KMT faces an uphill battle in pushing through the service trade agreement if its political archrival has control over the proceedings.
The ruling party has summoned all of its lawmakers to a caucus meeting tomorrow to hash out response strategies for all possible outcomes of the review, Lin said.
Chen yesterday vowed that he would take a neutral stance and would not seek to dominate the proceedings.
“The cross-strait trade agreement has not been placed on the committee’s agenda before. The committee’s convener is mandated to handle any item that has not been taken care of by the other convener,” Chen said.
Chang said that what the DPP really wanted was to kill the agreement and that it had no intention of helping its ratification.
If the DPP insists on controlling the pact’s review during the committee phase, the KMT should argue that the agreement be allowed to pass the committee stage automatically because the review is in violation of regulations stipulating that it be completed within three months after the plenary session assigns it to the committee, Chang said.
Former minister of economic affairs Yiin Chii-ming (尹啟銘) had previously made the argument based on Article 61 of the Act Governing the legislative Yuan’s Powers (立法院職權行使法).
If ratified by the legislature, the cross-strait trade pact would open up 64 of the nation’s service sub-sectors to Chinese investment, including printing, tourism, restaurants, packaging, delivery service, car rentals, advertisement and the hair styling and beauty industry.
This compares with the 80 service sectors that China will open up to Taiwanese investment.
Since Taipei and Beijing signed the agreement in June last year, numerous public officials and members of the public have raised concerns about what they call the opaque process of its signing and criticized the government for failing to consult with the public before inking the pact.
In response to these concerns, the KMT in December last year agreed to hold a series of 16 public hearings before the line-by-line review of the agreement begins.
The last of these hearings is scheduled to be held tomorrow.