Groups call for action on service pact

RUSHED::Groups opposed to the service trade deal said it must be reviewed thoroughly and voiced concern over using extra legislative sessions to pass controversial bills

By Chris Wang  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 - Page 3

The legislature should not review the recently signed cross-strait service trade agreement during an extra session until a comprehensive impact assessment has been made, civic groups said yesterday as they warned Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers against forcing through ratification of the controversial agreement.

“We oppose the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration’s inappropriate use of extra legislative sessions as well as the hasty passage of the service trade agreement,” National Taiwan University professor Yen Chueh-an (顏厥安), who is also a spokesperson for Taiwan Democracy Watch, told a press conference in front of the Legislative Yuan in Taipei.

The pact was signed without significant assessment of its impact on hundreds of local service-sector businesses and the livelihoods of up to 5 million Taiwanese, said the groups, which included the Taiwan Labor Front, Citizen’s Congress Watch, Cross-Strait Agreement Watch (CSAW) and the Taiwan Association for Human Rights.

Despite these concerns, the KMT has decided to place a review of the agreement on the agenda for the second extra legislative session, which begins on July 29, and aims to have the pact ratified.

The alliance of civic groups called for lawmakers to oppose the use of the second extra session to ratify the cross-strait deal. They also urged the government to hold public hearings for as many service subsectors as possible before sending the agreement to the legislature, saying that the process of submitting the pact directly for a second reading was too rushed.

During the past five years Ma has repeatedly attempted to evade legislative monitoring and has become accustomed to placing controversial major policies on the agenda of extra legislative sessions rather than regular sessions, said Chang Chia-yin (張嘉尹), a law professor at Shih Hsin University.

“Such practices are borderline unconstitutional,” Chang said.

As the Ma administration appears to have turned a blind eye to public concerns over the service agreement, the groups are set to launch a series of measures targeting KMT lawmakers, who would play a deciding role in the fate of the agreement in the legislature.

The groups plan to contact the offices of all KMT lawmakers and ask them to join the three opposition parties’ petition to boycott the second extra session, CSAW spokesperson Lai Chung-chiang (賴中強) said, adding that the groups would visit KMT caucus whip Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) today to appeal for support.

The groups also called on businesses in the 26 service subsectors which are most likely to suffer most under the agreement, such as food vendors, beauty parlors and printing firms, to make telephone calls to the offices of 19 selected KMT lawmakers to voice their opposition to the pact.

The 19 KMT lawmakers are those who won office in January last year by less than 10 percent of the total votes, which means that their re-election chances are likely to be at stake if they ignore public concerns, Lai said.

Academics from the groups said the cross-strait agreement is unfair and lacks sufficient consultation and preparation, which has led to strong public suspicion about its impact.

The government conducted item-by-item reviews of local agricultural products ahead of Taiwan’s accession to the WTO, but such preparations were absent in the negotiations for the service trade pact, said Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲), an economist at National Chung Hsing University.

In addition, the pact is unfairly weighted regarding the opening up of market access, with Beijing’s liberalization coming with preconditions or limits attached, National Taiwan University economist Jang Show-ling (鄭秀玲) said.