LEGISLATIVE SIEGE: Taiwan cannot ‘afford to damage its reputation’

By Helen Ku  /  Staff reporter

Mon, Mar 24, 2014 - Page 3

Minister of Economic Affairs Chang Chia-juch (張家祝) yesterday said Taiwan cannot afford to damage its reputation by withdrawing the cross-strait service trade pact, because that would lead to the nation becoming marginalized in the global economy.

“Taiwan’s economic development has long been reliant on foreign trade, but we need to recognize that up to 60 percent of the country’s exports over the past few decades were goods,” Chang told a press conference in Taipei.

“It is time for Taiwanese service providers to explore the global market,” Chang said. “They can break into [the] China [market] with the help of the cross-strait service trade pact, or [into] other countries’ [markets].”

In response to student protesters’ demand that the pact be withdrawn, Chang said that Taiwan’s economic development would face difficulties if the nation chooses to block paths that have been built to lead to economic growth through international trade.

The pact, which was inked in June last year, can bring more beneficial than adverse impacts to the country’s tertiary sector, Chang added, citing studies conducted by the ministry’s trade negotiations office.

“The ministry admitted it could have done a better job in promoting the service trade pact, but we are intolerant of people who try to stain the trade agreement in a deliberate manner,” Chang said.

An outright decision to terminate the agreement may prompt suspension of follow-up negotiations on an agreement of trade in goods that was proposed under the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), Chang said.

He added that withdrawing the pact may also render the nation unable to sign new trade agreements with other countries in the future, “because we would then prove to the world that Taiwan is a country without creditability.”

On protesters’ concern that the pact was signed without communicating with industries, Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Bill Cho (卓士昭) said: “The pact is not an under-the-table deal.”

“The ministry made at least three separate reports to the legislature about the trade negotiations office’s plan for trade talks on the pact, including one secret meeting,” Cho said. “We also met with many industry representatives ahead of signing the trade pact.”

Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Woody Duh (杜紫軍) said the pact has been “misinterpreted” by intellectuals, including National Taiwan University economics professor Jang Show-ling (鄭秀玲) and former national policy advisor Rex How (郝明義).

Duh denied Jang’s claim that opening up Taiwan’s service market would cause millions of job losses.

As for How’s concern that Chinese operators would take over Taiwan’s telecom industry and thus harm the nation’s national security once the service trade pact is approved, Duh said: “The government has a mechanism that monitors who enters telecom operators’ machine rooms and will safeguard national security.”