As both the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) gear up for the debate on the cross-strait service trade agreement on Sunday, the composition of DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang’s (蘇貞昌) team of aides seems to convey that he will not be relying on rhetoric to win.
Amid concerns that the agreement would deal a severe blow to the economy, with Chinese investment forcing many workers from their jobs, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Su agreed to a debate on the agreement inked in late June.
The agreement promised to open up 64 Taiwanese industries to Chinese investment, including transportation, tourism and traditional Chinese medicine, while China would open up 80 industries to Taiwan, including the finance, retail, electronics, publishing and travel sectors, should the accord be ratified by the Legislative Yuan.
DPP spokesman Wang Min-sheng (王閔生) said that Su’s team was made up of academics, party administrators and former officials because these would be his greatest strength in the debate, adding that the party would also take suggestions from businesspeople.
Wang said that the group, which includes DPP Policy Research Committee executive director Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), DPP think tank executive director Lin Wan-i (林萬億), DPP Department of China Affairs director Honnigman Hong (洪財隆) and others, did not contain any debate specialists.
An international affairs expert and former Mainland Affairs Council chairman in former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) administration, Wu is well-versed in both cross-strait affairs and relations between China, the US and Taiwan, Wang said, adding that Wu would be able to shed some light on the agreement from those angles.
Lin was one of the pillars on which Su relies, convening many of the academic discussions on DPP policies before they were announced to the public, Wang said.
Hong has a background in sectarian economy and finance integration, and was one of the strongest opponents of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) signed on June 29, 2010, in Chongqing, China, saying that the agreement was a watered-down version of a free-trade agreement, and that the signing had not been carried out according to procedure.
Hong said that at the time he was a member of the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research, but his opposition to the policy meant he was viewed as a “troublemaker,” adding jokingly that he had not received another contract from institute and could be seen as one of the first to have lost their jobs due to the ECFA.
Hong said that when he was an academic, he approached issues based on theory, but since coming to the DPP camp, he had changed his approach.
“Now that I am a part of the DPP, I have to consider more than theory; I have think about the continuity of party policy, how such policies correspond to their core values and what the party’s supporters think about such policies,” Hong said.
Wang said that Su was close to the industries and academia, and would continue to voice concerns in both sectors on the debate.