Public concern has risen over the signing of a cross-strait service trade agreement scheduled for next month because President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration has only touted its benefits, while refusing to discuss any possible negative impact.
The Mainland Affairs Council, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Financial Supervisory Commission yesterday held a joint forum to brief the public on the accord, after Straits Exchange Foundation Vice Chairman Kao Koong-lian’s (高孔廉) announcement on Friday that the pact was likely to be signed next month.
Kao said the foundation had made a proposal to its Chinese counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), that foundation Chairman Lin Join-sane (林中森) and ARATS Chairman Chen Deming (陳德銘) meet next month to sign the agreement.
If inked, the agreement would be a major follow-up to the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) signed in June 2010.
It would also see Taiwan open up its financial, medical care and travel agency services to China, with the telecommunications sector being partially liberalized.
The meeting, if held, would be the ninth high-level cross-strait meeting since 2008.
During the forum, the ministry presented a report illustrating the government’s facilitation of the inking of the agreement.
However, to participants’ apparent astonishment, the report merely featured a chapter listing the potential benefits of the accord, with no mention of the possible negative impact the agreement could have on the nation’s society and economy.
Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said at the forum that the council had concluded an evaluation report on the accord’s effectiveness and would send it to the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee.
Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Bill Cho (卓士昭) said the ministry had sought opinions from all sectors of society — including concerned business proprietors, China-based Taiwanese businesspeople and various workers’ unions and associations — on the main service sectors that Taiwan would liberalize under the accord.
“These areas of services were agreed upon after we, based on the principle of ‘maximizing benefits and minimizing negative impacts,’ discreetly evaluated [the pros and cons of] opening them up,” Cho said.
Cho added that in light of public concerns and the nature of cross-strait economic exchanges, the government did not agree to liberalize its professional service industry, involving lawyers, physicians and accountants.
“The ministry also gave a detailed report on the pact at a closed-door meeting of the Internal Administration Committee on May 2. However, we could not make this information known to the public right away because the final version of the accord is still subject to changes until after it is signed,” Cho said.
On the liberalization of securities markets, Securities and Futures Bureau Director-General Huang Tien-mu (黃天牧) said the move was unlikely to have a significant impact, given the current openness of Taiwan’s securities markets to foreign investment.
Asked if relevant government agencies have conducted evaluations of the pact’s potential impact, Mainland Affairs Council Deputy Minister Lin Chu-chia (林祖嘉) said concerned departments had provided input on the matter.
“Most of them concluded that the pact’s benefits would outweigh its negative effects, while others believed that the accord would have little or no impact,” Lin Chu-chia said.