DPP renews trade pact renegotiation call

EXEMPTIONS::Sectors that might be placed at risk by the agreement, such as beauty parlors, laundromats and Internet firms, should be exempted, the DPP said

By Chris Wang  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Mar 13, 2014 - Page 3

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday reiterated its call for the proposed cross-strait service trade agreement to be renegotiated and detailed its concern over the pact’s impact on certain sectors.

“We support and respect what our comrades are doing in the Legislative Yuan,” DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said at party headquarters, after DPP and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers scuffled in the legislature, pushing, shoving and grabbing microphones at the start of the legislative review of the agreement.

The DPP has always supported free-trade agreements — such as those with Singapore and New Zealand — that will benefit the economy and the party does not oppose the service trade agreement, Su said.

However, the party opposes agreements that lack transparency, and the government has failed to consult industries and companies that might be affected by the pact and to undertake a proper risk assessment of its impact, he said.

In a briefing to the DPP’s Central Standing Committee, Department of China Affairs director Honigmann Hong (洪財隆) presented a list of sectors that may be adversely affected by the agreement.

Citing a public opinion poll conducted by the party on Feb. 18 and Feb. 19, Hong said that 52 percent of respondents opposed the legislature passing the trade pact, while 70.5 percent supported a renegotiation of the agreement.

“We are standing on the same side as mainstream public opinion,” Hong said.

The DPP recommended that certain sectors, such as printing and publishing, advertising and logistics, should not be liberalized given the big difference in the countries’ political and economic systems.

Printing and publishing should not be open to China because Beijing maintains strict censorship and keeps a tight rein on freedom of speech, the party said.

Taiwanese logistics firms could be at risk as their Chinese counterparts are mainly state-owned enterprises that have huge financial capacity to buy up Taiwanese firms, Hong said.

Beauty parlors and laundromats — the source of livelihood for tens of thousands of small business owners — should also be exempted, he added.

Sectors that could raise national security concerns, including Type II telecommunications, Web site content management and database services, should also be excluded from the liberalization list, he said.

Hong added that liberalization as defined in the agreement was unequal, which he said could be a result either of the poor negotiating skills of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration or China’s refusal to adopt reciprocal treatment.

China has limited its liberalization of electronic commerce, retail and funeral services to specific regions, while Taiwan places no restrictions on Chinese investment, Hong said.

China will also only allow Taiwanese nonprofit organizations to operate in the social care industry, while Chinese commercial and nonprofit organizations will be allowed to operate freely in Taiwan, he added.

The DPP does not oppose liberalization of the banking business, but warned that Chinese investors could become majority shareholders of half of the 16 financial holding companies in Taiwan, Hong said.