President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) ascribed the cause of the ongoing student-led protest movement against the cross-strait service trade agreement to a dispute over the review procedure for the pact in the legislature triggered by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
Ma made the remarks in an interview at the Presidential Office with The Economist magazine Beijing bureau chief James Miles on Friday last week, the fourth day into protester occupation of the legislative chamber.
Asked why there was such controversy over the pact signed in June last year, Ma said that any matter that involves cross-strait relations will cause some degree of contention in the country because people have not reached a consensuses on how to develop ties with China.
Ma said that after the past several months of clarifying misunderstandings among the public that the pact would open the job market to Chinese workers, threaten national security and work in China’s favor, “the true picture has become clear.”
“The current situation has developed because of a dispute that has arisen in the Legislative Yuan during deliberations over the agreement,” Ma said.
Earlier this month, when the DPP presided over a review of the pact, it did not allow the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers to express their views, and when the KMT was in charge of the review, the DPP occupied the podium, Ma said.
“Eventually the KMT decided that they would follow the regulations and deemed the review to have been completed,” Ma said, in reference to a meeting on Monday last week chaired by KMT Legislator Chang Ching-chung (張慶忠).
At the meeting, Chang took just 30 seconds to announce that the pact had cleared the committee review and sent it to the floor for a vote at the second reading, while in fact none of the articles had been deliberated at the committee stage.
“I believe that such disputes concerning legislative review should be resolved through the legislature’s internal negotiation mechanism,” Ma said.
Ma said that the trade agreement was a follow-up pact under the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) the nation signed with China in 2010, which will also cover a pact on trade in goods, a mechanism on settling commercial disputes and a pact on “economic cooperation.”
If the agreement is not ratified, it would affect the signing of an agreement of trade in goods with China, Ma said.
“The international community would find it odd that Taiwan, while voicing an interest in joining the regional economic integration, is faltering over procedural issues. Our sincerity and determination would be questioned,” he added.
Separately, Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) yesterday urged Cabinet members to seize the opportunity to increase communication with the public and students about the trade agreement, Executive Yuan spokesperson Sun Lih-chyun (孫立群) told a post-Cabinet meeting press conference.
Sun said Cabinet members should take every opportunity to explain the pact to the public, such as interviews with media outlets, meetings with students at campus or invitations from civil groups.