Cabinet approves cross-strait service trade pact

OPPORTUNITIES::President Ma Ying-jeou defended the agreement, saying it would allow competitive local businesses to expand and develop across the Strait

By Shih Hsiu-chuan and Mo Yan-chih  /  Staff reporters

Fri, Jun 28, 2013 - Page 3

The cross-strait service trade agreement has been approved by the Cabinet and will soon be sent to the legislature for review, Executive Yuan spokesperson Cheng Li-wun (鄭麗文) said yesterday.

Under the agreement signed on Friday last week in Shanghai, Taiwan will open 64 sectors in the service industry to Chinese investment, while China will open 80 sectors to Taiwanese businesses.

Lawmakers reached an agreement on Tuesday to review the agreement item-by-item and vote on each of the articles and sector-specific commitments separately, contrary to the hope of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration that the legislature will vote on the agreement as a whole.

Lawmakers also agreed at the Tuesday meeting that the pact cannot take effect without the legislature’s ratification.

At a press conference following the Cabinet meeting yesterday, Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said the council would communicate face-to-face with lawmakers, academics and people from all walks of life to address their concerns over possible impacts from the agreement.

The council is willing to hold one-on-one meetings with lawmakers on the Internal Administration Committee and Economic Committee and any other legislators who are interested in the issue, Wang said.

Wang dismissed allegations that holding public meetings after the pact has already been signed is an attempt to “brainwash” the public into thinking positively about the agreement.

“It was an unfair criticism. The executive branch is obliged to explain the government’s policies to people,” Wang said.

There will be a series of meetings with academics and experts on campuses, ordinary people in rural communities and public servants in local governments to discuss concerns they may have about the agreement, Wang said.

Wang declined to comment on Straits Exchange Foundation Vice Chairman and Secretary-General Kao Koong-lian’s (高孔廉) comment on Wednesday that any revision made by lawmakers to the agreement would nullify it.

The council will respect whatever decision the legislature makes, Wang said.

While most people, like Kao, might think that having the legislature alter parts of the agreement or reject some of the items may be tantamount to an abrogation of the agreement, the government will still have to review and interpret the results of the legislative decisions, he said.

Wang declined to elaborate, saying he would rather not speculate on how the legislature would handle the agreement.

In the legislature, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) reiterated that the agreement would be dealt with in accordance with Tuesday’s decision.

Ma yesterday also defended the signing of the agreement, saying it would allow competitive Taiwanese businesses to expand and develop in China.

The pact is an extension of the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), Ma said.

“The service trade agreement covers a wider range of industries and allows very competitive local businesses to invest in mainland China,” he said at a meeting with representatives from the US Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Ma made the comments in response to criticism that the government failed to disclose details of the treaty and to present an impact assessment report on the pact’s potential effect on local businesses before the deal was signed.