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President backs legalizing scrutiny of cross-strait pacts (update)

2014/03/29 20:43:38

Taipei, March 29 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou expressed support Saturday for a proposal by protesters occupying the Legislature that a law be enacted to subject all agreements with China to close scrutiny.

Speaking in a news conference, Ma said the Mainland Affairs Council is expected to unveil scrutiny measures next week, and he urged legislators across party lines to work to pass the law within the current legislative session, scheduled to run through the end of May.

"This would subject all agreements (with China) to thorough oversight, both before and after their signing," Ma said.

However, he rejected the protesters' demand that the legislative process of the controversial trade-in-services pact with China be halted until such an oversight mechanism is legalized.

He said the administration is in favor of an item-by-item review of the pact in the Legislature but does not support the protesters' demand that the pact be returned to the Executive Yuan.

The president also said the Executive Yuan is evaluating the possibility of holding a "civic constitutional meeting" as proposed by the protesters.

A group of student-led protesters have occupied the Legislature's main chamber since breaking into the building March 18, in reaction to an attempt by the ruling Kuomintang to send the trade-in-services agreement straight to a vote on the legislative floor, bypassing legislative committee review.

Arguing that the agreement was signed and rammed through without sufficient transparency, the protesters are demanding that the legislative process be halted and that a law be drawn up to monitor the negotiation of future cross-strait agreements.

The students are planning to expand their protests by holding a rally of 100,000 people in front of the Presidential Office Sunday.

Ma called on the protesters to use rational and peaceful ways to express their views and to respect opinions that differ from their own.

Citing a survey conducted by Business Today magazine among heads of economics departments of Taiwanese universities, he said 12 out of the 13 people who responded to the survey support the trade-in-services agreement because they believe it is favorable to Taiwan's economy.

Research by the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research, meanwhile, predicts that the pact will increase Taiwan's services exports to China by 37 percent and create 12,000 local jobs, Ma said.

The president said he fully understands the students' worries and hopes to have the chance to sit down and discuss with them a wide range of issues concerning young people, such as salaries, employment and housing.

"Due to your efforts, the importance of the trade-in-services pact has received more public attention, and the oversight mechanism for cross-strait agreements will become more complete," he said. "Now you should consider returning the legislative chamber to the parliament."

(By Huang Jui-hung and Y.F. Low)
ENDITEM/J

Update:
●March 29: Demonstration will continue as planned: student leader
●March 29: President's response to protesters draws mixed reactions
●March 29: Trade pact has built-in safety measures: president
●March 29: Trade pact backed by many sectors: president

Related stories:
●March 29: President calls news conference to address protesters' demands
●March 27: Occupation movement plans rally in front of Presidential Office
●March 23: Protesters raise new demands in standoff over trade pact

(Click here for the latest on the ongoing protest and developments since the Legislature occupation starting March 18.)