Supporters, opponents remain divided on pact

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Aug 02, 2013 - Page 3

Proceeding into the second day of a public hearing on the cross-strait service trade agreement that was signed by Taiwan and China last month, supporters and opponents of the pact remained divided on whether the agreement is good for the country.

“Opening up some more sensitive industries to China could pose a threat to our national security,” National Taiwan University (NTU) electrical engineering professor Tsai Zse-hong (蔡志宏) said at the hearing, held at the legislature in Taipei. “In many European and North American countries, they have legislation to protect industries that may raise national security concerns — such as the transportation, information technology, telecommunications, medical and financial sectors — when they open up the domestic market.”

“This is something that the government should think about as we open up to China,” he added.

Taiwan Federation of Financial Unions secretary-general Han Shih-hsien (韓仕賢) agreed.

He pointed out that once Chinese banks get their hands on major Taiwanese financial institutions, they would naturally be able to obtain classified information about the banking institutions’ clients, “through the information, they could learn a lot about Taiwan’s economic and financial situation.”

Victims of Investments in China Association chairman William Kao (高為邦) said that based on his experiences and those of the group’s members, he would not trust the promises of the Chinese government.

“Most Taiwanese businesspeople do not get any help when they become victims in China,” Kao said, adding that with the agreement, more people would be going to China and making investments there, which would be “like sending them to their death.”

Woo Rhung-jieh (吳榮傑), a professor at NTU’s department of agricultural economics, said he is not opposed to free trade, but he is against a non-transparent free-trade agreement.

“The government did not tell us what the pact was about before signing it, and now after the signing the government is still not telling us everything about it,” Woo said. “The government keeps on emphasizing how good the pact is, without mentioning the negative impacts, but there is no trade agreement that is purely positive to one side — how can we trust the government if it is not honest?”

Woo went on to say that, from what is already known, the agreement seems to be beneficial to corporates at the expense of the working class.

“I am therefore worried that the cross-strait service trade agreement will only add to the unemployment rate,” he added.

On the other hand, some participants voiced their support for the agreement during the meeting.

Taipei Association of Travel Agents vice president Lee Chia-yin (李嘉寅) said that the agreement is more positive than negative for the tourism industry “because the travel market in China is much bigger than the market in Taiwan.”

However, he also suggested that the government should help to attract visitors from other countries to visit Taiwan, saying that the travel market is too dependent on Chinese tourists already.

Taiwan Securities Association secretary-general Chuang Tai-ping (莊太平) also spoke in favor of the agreement.

Chuang said that the fierce competition in the Taiwanese financial market has made the Taiwanese finance industry highly competitive.

“The competitiveness and service of Taiwanese financial institutions is superior to their Chinese counterparts, therefore we are looking forward to the ratification of the cross-strait service trade agreement by the legislature as soon as possible,” Chuang said.

Minister of Economic Affairs Chang Chia-juch (張家祝) warned that it would damage Taiwan’s credibility in the international community if it seeks to alter or re-negotiate the agreement.