Fri, Jun 27, 2014 - Page 3 News List

CROSSING THE STRAIT: Ma slams service pact critics, DPP in interview

By Chris Wang  /  Staff reporter

Those who oppose the cross-strait service trade agreement are in the minority, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said in an interview with English-language magazine Forbes Asia last week, in which he warned that the opposition pose a “major challenge” to the nation’s democracy.

The June 19 interview touched on a wide range of issues, including the divisive service trade pact, national security and the year-end elections. The magazine published an excerpt of the interview online yesterday, with the full version to be published in print on July 21.

Ma told the magazine that the service trade pact, which is awaiting deliberation in the legislature, is key for revitalizing the domestic service sector and would catalyze the nation’s accession to negotiations on establishing two proposed free-trade blocs: the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“Currently, support for [the cross-strait agreement] has pulled even with or even surpassed opposition to it,” Ma said.

In March and April, student-led activists staged a three-week-long occupation of the legislature to protest the government’s handling of the pact in what became known as the Sunflower movement.

In the interview, Ma dismissed as “groundless” the protesters’ and the opposition’s claims that the agreement’s signing took place behind closed doors, and therefore it should be either renegotiated or scrapped entirely.

Pointing to the 144 seminars and 20 public hearings on the pact that were held by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Legislative Yuan, Ma said the trade deal has “gone through the most open and transparent process in the Republic of China’s constitutional history.”

He also said that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) never acquiesced to protesters’ demand that the screening of the pact be put on hold until an oversight mechanism for cross-strait talks and pacts is established.

“The KMT did not consent to the students’ demand that an article-by-article review of the agreement should only be conducted after the [draft] oversight act had been passed. The KMT believed that these two processes should proceed at the same time,” he said.

Ma said the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) occupation of the legislative podium a record 43 times had kept bills from moving forward and said this “obstructionism” was the biggest challenge facing Taiwan at this time.

When asked what he would do differently regarding the service pact, Ma said Taiwanese should not think that everything related to China is “scary or malicious.”

When asked about recent comments by China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesperson Fan Liqing (范麗青), saying Taiwan’s future should be decided by “all Chinese,” Ma urged Beijing to “do more homework.”

“They stated their traditional position, without realizing that, for Taiwan, this is unacceptable,” the president said.

On security issues, Ma said the US’ pivot to Asia was acceptable to most Asian countries and he was not concerned about the rising tensions in the East and South China seas since most of the parties involved are seeking economic growth and so would strive to avoid conflict, reiterating that the situation in East Asia was a lot different than that in Ukraine or the Middle East.

Though he said the seven-in-one elections in November would be a major challenge for the KMT, Ma said he is confident the party he chairs would do well, because “the candidate is key,” not just the general political and economic climate.

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