Mon, Mar 31, 2014 - Page 3 News List

TRADE PACT SIEGE: MOEA announces trade pact presentations at universities

Staff writer, with CNA

A protester displays a placard during a demonstration against a cross-strait service trade agreement in front of the Presidential Office Building in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Mandy cheng, AFP

As a student-led protest against the government’s handling of the cross-strait service trade agreement continues, the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) is planning to hold presentations at universities to explain to students the government’s views on the controversial accord.

Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Woody Duh (杜紫軍) is to head a team assigned to address the pact at schools, with his maiden show scheduled to take place at National Chengchi University today, followed by a second presentation at National Taipei University tomorrow.

During the presentations, Duh will explain what the services trade accord is, its contents and why it was signed, the ministry said.

Duh said he will also detail the signing process, which took place in June last year, and the pact’s legislative review and ratification process.

To avoid possible criticism blasting the presentations as nothing more than government propaganda, he will be open to questions, Duh said, adding that he is ready for any “thorny” questions.

It will be the ministry’s first presentation of the trade pact on campuses since the start of protests against the government’s handling of the accord on March 18 after Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers tried to fast-track it and put it to a full vote on the legislative floor, bypassing the review process.

The protest has since been expanded to an occupation of the Legislative Yuan by student protesters.

Concerned that the agreement, under which the two sides agree to open up to each other’s service sectors, would hurt Taiwan’s businesses and job market, protesters are demanding new legislation that would subject any cross-strait agreement to close monitoring by legislators and that lawmakers refrain from taking any action on the pact until the new law is enacted.

The ministry said that on Aug. 9 last year, it mailed 454 law, economics and finance departments and institutes at universities around the nation, asking if they wanted to have the government’s presentation of the services pact organized on their campuses.

However, most schools, including National Taiwan University and National Tsing Hua University, showed a lack of interest in the proposal, it said.

In other developments, the Formosa Plastics Group (FPG) responded positively to President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) press conference on Saturday addressing student protesters’ demands over the service trade pact and called for its quick passage through the legislature to help Taiwan gain greater access to the global economic community.

FPG said Ma gave clear explanations to assuage the doubts of the protesters and the public about the pact and cited central bank Governor Perng Fai-nan (彭淮南) as saying that “signing free-trade agreements always involves some give and take.”

If the agreement fails to clear the Legislative Yuan, Taiwan will not be able to conclude its negotiations on the largely completed goods trade agreement, which FPG said would hamper the nation’s efforts to join the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

Should this be the case, it will be extremely difficult for Taiwanese manufacturing businesses that are already squeezed by slim profit margins to survive, the group said.

FPG, one of Taiwan’s largest conglomerates with diverse interests, also urged the government to help tide businesses affected by the pact until progress is made.

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