The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-dominated legislature is expected to ratify the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) and amendments to related legislation as early as tomorrow after a consensus on how to review the pact was reached yesterday.
The consensus, pending confirmation at the legislature’s plenary session today, is expected to defuse the possibility of a boycott by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers should they be denied the right to vote on the agreement article by article.
The DPP is expected to propose to revise each of the 16 articles in the text of the ECFA and each of the motions to revise each article will be voted on. That will be followed by a motion by the KMT to vote on the ECFA as a whole package.
Sources at the legislature said Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) had broached the idea with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who had previously insisted that the legislature either ratify or reject the ECFA as a whole, saying it could not revise the content of the ECFA.
KMT caucus whip Lin Hung-chih (林鴻池) said each article of the DPP’s version would be voted on, but that would not be tantamount to an article-by-article vote on the ECFA.
Lin said the KMT would agree to vote on the DPP’s motion to revise each article and when the motion had been voted down there would be no need to vote on the content of the DPP’s proposal.
“We will not vote on the contents of each article proposed by the DPP,” Lin said.
According to the consensus, the KMT will propose a motion to vote on the ECFA as a whole after the DPP fails in each of its motions to revise the agreement.
“Only then will the contents of the ECFA will be voted on, in the form of a package,” Lin said.
DPP lawmakers were optimistic over the preliminary consensus, saying it addressed their requests for a clause-by-clause vote.
The compromise should break months of gridlock over the legislature’s role in reviewing the agreement. It should also mean that DPP lawmakers will not walk out of tomorrow’s session.
“We are satisfied with the compromise, it gives the DPP what we want and saves face for the KMT, since that’s what they wanted all along,” DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) said.
DPP lawmakers have said that the consensus, which they say has been put into writing and signed, means the legislature will take an “individual review, individual vote and package vote approach,” fulfilling the requests of both parties.
While the wording of the agreement does not explicitly state that lawmakers would be granted a clause-by-clause vote, opposition party lawmakers said it was made clear through their negotiations that they would be granted a vote on individual clauses.
“Of course ‘handling it by procedure’ means holding a vote, each article at a time,” DPP Legislator Pan Meng-an (潘孟安) said in reference to the wording on the signed copy of the consensus. “It can’t mean anything else.”
Pan said five representatives from the DPP, five from the KMT and one independent lawmaker would first review, then raise questions on each clause. After that has been completed, all 113 lawmakers in the legislature would be allowed a vote on the article.
While the vote is expected to have no binding effect, a record of it will be attached to the final ECFA bill when it is voted on as a package.
The compromise came hours after DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) met the DPP caucus and said the party would not waver from its demands.
“We are committed to holding a substantial review with a discussion and vote on every clause,” she said after the morning meeting. “The DPP is completely against a package vote.”
Tsai said that while similar agreements in other countries have been subject to a package vote, it was either because the legislature pre-authorized economic negotiations or because of its full participation in the negotiation process.
“However, in the case of Taiwan’s talks with [China] on the ECFA, government officials did not allow either input or monitoring by elected representatives,” she said.
The DPP says the agreement will have an impact on traditional industries and middle-class salaries because of an influx of cheaper goods from China.
A hotly debated issue is Article 16 of the ECFA, in which Taiwan would have to wait at least 180 days before it could terminate the agreement in the event of a breakdown in cross-strait talks.
The DPP has criticized the clause, saying that Taiwan would have no way to immediately back out of the ECFA if it was found to be damaging the economy. KMT lawmakers say the clause is essential to protect Taiwanese businesses in China.
Lawmakers yesterday voted against the DPP’s motion that the legislature, during the second provisional session, initiate a referendum on the ECFA and revise the Act Governing the Allocation of Government Revenues and Expenditures (財政收支劃分法) to ensure that counties and cities that are to be upgraded to a municipality after Dec. 25 receive more funds from the central government.
The KMT’s proposal to ratify the ECFA, the Cross-Strait Cooperation Agreement on Intellectual Property Rights Protection and other bills during the second provisional session was confirmed.
Passage of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) and the Cross-Strait Cooperation Agreement on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Protection (IPR agreement), which Taiwan signed with China in June
The ECFA sets out the framework for Taiwan and China to expand market access step-by-step in future negotiations, with an “early harvest list” of market liberalization in certain goods and services sectors. The IPR agreement enables Taiwan and China to increase exchanges and cooperation to boost protection of patents, trademarks, copyrights and plant variety rights.
Amendments to the Trademark Act (商標法), the Patent Act (專利法), the Customs Import Tariff Act (海關進口稅則) and the Plant Variety and Plant Seed Act (植物品種及種苗法)
The acts shall be amended to allow for the implementation of the ECFA and the IPR agreement.
Amendments to the Act Governing Relations Between the Peoples of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (台灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例), the Vocational School Act (專科學校法) and the University Act (大學法)
The amendments will allow the government to carry out President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) election pledge to recognize Chinese educational credentials and open up Taiwanese universities to Chinese students. At present, Chinese students are only allowed to study in the country for short-term research purposes.
Amendment to the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act (公職人員選舉罷免法)
The Non-partisan Solidarity Union (NPSU) introduced the amendment, which was supported by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). It stipulates that demarcation of constituency boundaries in the current (seventh) legislative term be applied to next year’s election and that the constituency boundaries only be reviewed every 10 years. The NPSU and the KMT presented the proposal because they opposed a bill proposed by the Central Election Commission (CEC). Under the CEC proposal, the number of districts in Greater Kaohsiung, a municipality to be formed through the merger of Kaohsiung City and Kaohsiung County after Dec. 25, would have one less seat than in the seventh legislative term; while the number of seats in Greater Tainan — a municipality to be upgraded through the merger of Tainan City and Tainan County — would see a one-seat increase in the next legislative term. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) supports the CEC version, saying the NPSU-KMT bill violates the Constitution because Greater Tainan would be entitled to have one more seat in relation to its population size after Dec. 25.
Amendments to the ROC Office of the President Organization Act (中華民國總統府組織法)
An amendment was initiated by the Executive Yuan stipulating that the Presidential Office set up a legal affairs committee. Other amendments presented by KMT lawmakers suggested that senior national policy advisors and consultants to the Presidential Office serve without remuneration.
Amendments to the Organic Law of the Ministry of Justice (法務部組織法) and a draft organic law of the agency of correction under the Ministry of Justice (法務部矯正署組織法).
The government-initiated bill aims to elevate the status of the Department of Correction, responsible for the administration of the prison system, to enhance its functions.
Amendment to the Tobacco and Liquor Tax Act (菸酒稅法)
The bill proposed by the Executive Yuan suggestes that rice wine be categorized as “cooking wine” rather than “distilled liquor,” which would reduce the price of a 600ml bottle of rice wine from NT$50 to NT$25.
Amendments to the Act Governing Preferential Treatment for Retired Presidents and Vice Presidents (卸任總統副總統禮遇條例)
KMT lawmakers suggested temporarily suspending preferential treatment given to former presidents and vice presidents who are convicted in a first trial.
Amendment to the National Health Insurance Act (全民健康保險法)
If the amendment passes the legislature, the new system, known as the second-generation national health insurance system, would calculate insurance premiums based on the insured person’s overall household income, including stock dividends, bonuses and rental income, rather than individual income solely based on payroll income, as under the current system, which would expand the overall income base for the national health insurance fund.
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