TRADE PACT SIEGE: Chamber of Commerce backs pact, sets series of meeting for businesses

Staff writer, with CNA

Tue, Mar 25, 2014 - Page 4

Lai Cheng-i (賴正鎰), head of the General Chamber of Commerce and chairman of Shining Construction Group, said the group would host hearings this week for businesses in the local service sector to give their views on the benefits and disadvantages of a controversial trade pact with China, while some tech sector business leaders voiced support for the pact.

Lai said the participants in the hearings would include representatives of beauty treatment and car maintenance enterprises, which are among the sectors that would be opened up to Chinese investment.

Taiwan and China signed the cross-strait service trade pact in June, but it has been stuck in the legislature amid concerns about eroded job and business opportunities in the service industry.

On Tuesday last week, student-led demonstrators stormed the Legislative Yuan in Taipei and have since occupied the chamber in protest against Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers’ efforts to fast-track the legislative processing of the agreement.

Opposition lawmakers have sought to examine the pact item-by-item, but progress was stalled until Monday last week, when KMT legislators said that the legislative committees’ joint review of the agreement was complete, moving the pact on to a plenary session.

Lai said he also supports the proposal of an item-by-item review, but only if it would take public interest into consideration. He said he was against irrational or violent actions to stall or block such an examination of the pact, and suggested that lawmakers complete their review within a month.

Meanwhile, some leaders in the technology sector expressed mixed views about the protests and supported the pact, saying it is vital to the nation’s development.

Bruce Cheng (鄭崇華), founder of Taiwan’s Delta Group, a leading power management solutions provider, called for reason among the student-led protesters, saying their occupation of the Legislative Yuan compound should not be allowed, as it puts the rule of law, and hence democracy, at risk.

Stan Shih (施振榮), founder of computer maker Acer Inc, said the controversy stems mainly from “a lack of transparency in the whole process” and qualms about possible threats to national interests.

However, Taiwan has been “marginalized,” Shih said.

He also said the service trade agreement is crucial to Taiwan’s economic development and its drive for innovation.

“Taiwan has no future without [cross-strait] trade in services,” Shih said.