Trade agreement faces tough time in the legislature

Staff writer, with CNA

Sun, Sep 01, 2013 - Page 3

The cross-strait service trade agreement is expected to face strong resistance on the legislative floor when the new session opens this month, as opposition lawmakers remain strongly against the pact, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Hung-chih (林鴻池) said yesterday.

Lin, who heads his party’s Central Policy Committee, said he thinks opposition legislators, in particular Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers, will try their best to block the agreement.

In light of this, it cannot be said if or when the agreement will be approved during the new legislative session, which starts on Sept. 17, Lin said.

The agreement, signed in Shanghai on June 21 between Taiwan and China, seeks to open up the service sectors on each side to the other.

However, the opposition parties, some academics and members of the private sector have objected to the pact, saying it will negatively affect Taiwan’s service industry and eventually hurt the local job market.

Since the review of the pact in the committee stage during the most recent legislative session, some opposition lawmakers have withdrawn their support even for non-controversial sections of the agreement and have vowed to boycott its legislative processing, Lin said.

Against this background, the legislature plans to hold 16 public hearings on the issue before it begins review of the agreement in the new session, in November at the earliest, Lin said.

In addition, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) are scheduled to hold a televised debate on Sept. 15 on the service trade pact, under which Taiwan has agreed to allow China to run businesses in areas such as printing, car rental, cargo transportation, gondolas, beauty parlors and salons, online gaming and funeral services.

Meanwhile, China has agreed to open businesses such as e-commerce, printing, hospitals, construction and transportation to Taiwanese investors.

Legislative approval of the pact will depend on the opposition parties, Lin said, adding that the KMT wants to see it passed by the end of the year because it will help to improve Taiwanese people’s well-being and benefit the country.

KMT Legislator Hsu Hsin-ying (徐欣瑩) supported Lin’s views and agreed that the ruling party will encounter a “very difficult battle” over the agreement in the new legislative session.

The agreement is considered the most significant economic accord between Taiwan and China since they signed the landmark Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement in 2010.