Economics ministry urges speedy review of trade pact with China

03/10/2014 10:17 PM
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Taipei, March 10 (CNA) The Ministry of Economic Affairs urged the Legislature Monday to conduct a speedy review of a trade in services agreement Taiwan signed with China last June, and challenged the pact's opponents to have confidence in Taiwan's service industry.

Lawmakers from legislative committees involved in screening the pact are set to meet on March 12 to review the agreement.

They intend to scrutinize the pact article-by-article and decide whether to pass it or not. Any change to the signed agreement would force both sides to restart negotiations, something opponents of the plan have called for repeatedly.

Vice Economics Minister Cho Shih-chao said that every agreement was the result of "give and take" and that it was impossible for the deal to only include conditions beneficial to Taiwan.

Taiwan's service industry is stronger than China's, the ministry said in a statement, and it urged groups that oppose the pact to have more confidence in the competitiveness of local businesses.

The agreement, signed in June 2013, has met with criticism from legislators and some service sector businesses, fearful that China's large-scale businesses with deep pockets will overrun Taiwan's smaller operators.

They have also worried about a potential influx of Chinese workers into Taiwan.

The government has described it as an important step in further liberalizing the country's economy.

Hoping to alleviate the doubts and build consensus on the issue, the Legislature has held a series of 16 hearings on the agreement since last September. The last public hearing was held Monday.

Cho, who also attended Monday's hearing, rejected accusations that negotiations on the pact lacked transparency, saying that the government began discussing issues covered in the pact with service sector representatives in 2011 before the deal was signed.

He acknowledged, however, that the specific terms of the agreement could not be disclosed publicly during the negotiations based on the need for confidentiality.

Cho stressed that the pact is an important part of Taiwan's efforts to advance trade relations with China and improve trade ties with other countries.

If the Legislature does not pass the cross-Taiwan Strait agreement, it could lead other countries to doubt Taiwan's determination in pushing for trade liberalization, Cho contended, an argument the pact's opponents reject.

Cho said it could also affect Taiwan's bids to join the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade blocs.

(By Huang Chiao-wen, Scarlett Chai and Elaine Hou) ENDITEM/ls

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