President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday called for the legislative review of the cross-strait service trade agreement to be sped up while meeting with heads of the administrative branches, and said the government would start negotiations with China on trade in goods as the next step of cross-strait economic exchanges.
“Foreign businesses in Taiwan and our neighboring nations are concerned about our determination and sincerity in handling the agreement. The Legislative Yuan should let the pact enter the review process as soon as possible,” Ma said.
Ma made the remarks in a meeting with top officials from the Executive Yuan, Legislative Yuan, Control Yuan, Examination Yuan and Judicial Yuan at the Presidential Office to discuss national affairs.
Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) took a leave of absence to attend his brother’s funeral. Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) attended the meeting on his behalf.
The passage of the agreement has been stalled since it was signed in June as the Legislative Yuan continues to organize public hearings and seek consensus on the agreement.
The transparency of the service trade agreement has been challenged by the opposition camp, and the service industry is concerned about what it says will be negative repercussions of the pact on business opportunities in Taiwan.
Ma’s urge for the approval of the agreement comes during the visit of China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) Chairman Chen Deming (陳德銘).
Meanwhile, the president defended the government’s efforts to strengthen diplomatic ties with allied nations in light of the Gambia’s decision to end diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
“We should not deny the achievements of the flexible diplomacy policy over the past five years because of this one case. We have consolidated our friendships with allied nations and expanded our international space,” he said.
Gambian President Yahya Jammeh made an abrupt announcement earlier this month of a break of diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
He denied that China was the reason behind his decision and insisted that it was made in the Gambia’s strategic national interests.
Taiwan terminated its ties with the Gambia on Nov. 18.