Wed, Mar 26, 2014 - Page 3 News List

TRADE PACT SIEGE: Business leaders urge government to heed protesters

By Crystal Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Business leaders yesterday urged the government to heed the call for a legal mechanism to monitor its negotiations with foreign countries so it can end the stalemate over the cross-strait service trade agreement.

The plea came after student-led activists occupied the legislature on Tuesday last week to protest the perceived attempts of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers to push through the pact without a clause-by-clause review.

“The students should stop their protest after successfully alerting the public to the importance of procedural justice in legislative reviews,” Chinese National Federation of Industries (CNFI) chairman Rock Hsu (許勝雄) told a press conference.

Ruling and opposition lawmakers should seek to iron out their differences in a rational manner to avoid having the legislature in constant paralysis, CNFI and 50 other trade groups said in a joint statement.

Hsu voiced regret that while Taiwan repeatedly slips into political standoffs, trade rival South Korea keeps exporting electronic products, films and TV programs.

The business groups suggested the government bow to public opinion and set up a legislative panel to supervise trade talks with foreign nations.

“We believe an open and transparent policymaking process is the best way to resolve resistance and build social consensus,” the groups said.

By doing so, the government could better facilitate the signing of further pacts with China under the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), joining talks for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and becoming a member of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the statement said.

Chinese National Association of Industry and Commerce vice chairman Nelson Chang (張安平) said it was the government’s duty to make its policies clear and win public support for them, but he and others could not sit around and watch the protests escalate.

While sympathetic to the students’ complaints, Chang threw his support behind the trade pact, saying it would benefit 90 percent of local companies and force the remaining 10 percent to upgrade.

“It makes no sense to give up benefitting the 90 percent because a few may get hurt,” Chang said.

The groups warned against students’ call for nationwide strikes, saying that would exact a heavy toll, causing losses of about NT$120 billion (US$3.92 billion) per day in the manufacturing and service sectors, while foreign buyers could shift orders and ask for compensation if local firms fail to deliver goods on time.

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