President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday urged lawmakers to set aside their political differences and pass a proposed cross-strait service trade agreement.
At a meeting with Lions Club International members at the Presidential Office, Ma defended the government’s efforts to sign the agreement with China, saying that Taiwan’s major trade partners are aggressively pursuing free-trade pacts to boost their economies and that failure to pass the agreement could undermine the nation’s economic outlook.
“We finally made progress by signing the agreement, but the pact is now stuck in the Legislative Yuan. Why can we sign economic pacts with Singapore and New Zealand, but not with the mainland [China]? I hope there won’t be any political bias,” he said.
The proposed agreement has been stalled since it was signed by Taiwanese and Chinese government representatives 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 questioned by the opposition camp, while some industry groups have voiced concern over potential negative repercussions on domestic businesses.
Ma yesterday accused the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of delaying the review process, as the public hearings it organized will not be completed until next year.
“Other countries are watching us. They want to see if we really mean to open our markets and move toward liberalization,” he said.
While pushing the legislature to approve the agreement, the Ma administration denies that China has been pressuring Taiwan to implement it.
Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) Chairman Chen Deming (陳德銘) joined the Ma administration in promoting the agreement during his eight-day trip in Taiwan.
He said that follow-up negotiations on the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), including the trade of goods across the Taiwan Strait and a trade dispute-resolving mechanism, would proceed as scheduled.
Concluding his trip yesterday, Chen said that he expected Taipei and Beijing to enhance cooperation in economics and other fields, adding that he hoped to visit Taiwan more often.
“The two sides of the Taiwan Strait can join efforts and enter the global market together. By working together we can profit more from the global market,” he said.
Several Falun Gong protesters unfurled banners at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport yesterday, but were kept at a distance from Chen’s trade delegation by police officers.
Straits Exchange Foundation Deputy Chairman Kao Koong-lian (高孔廉) saw Chen’s delegation off at the airport.
Additional reporting by CNA