Trade pact with China still under committee screening: speaker

03/23/2014 09:40 PM

Taipei, March 23 (CNA) Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng said Sunday a controversial pact with China has yet to go beyond the legislative committee process and therefore he "has no say over it."

As student-led protesters continued to occupy the Legislature for the sixth straight day in a protest against the agreement, Wang said the pact remains in the legislative Procedure Committee, which decides on the order in which bills are debated on the legislative floor.

The students, who stormed the legislative building in Taipei on March 18 in protest against ruling Kuomintang (KMT) lawmakers’ handling of the trade-in-services pact, have been calling for the review process to be suspended until the government institutes a law to allow greater oversight of agreements with China.

"I am not in a position to make any comments" regarding the demands, Wang said, adding that he is open to all options.

Lin Hung-chih, chief executive of the KMT Central Policy Committee, said however that there is no way the agreement will be returned to the committee stage.

KMT Legislator Chang Ching-chung announced March 17 that the services trade agreement had passed the legislative committee review stage and would be moved to a floor session.

Lin said the KMT legislative caucus hoped that the pact would be examined item-by-item in the plenary session, chaired by Wang, because the committee stage had been characterized by a lack of consensus and mutual trust among ruling and opposition lawmakers.

A thorough review on the legislative floor was possible, Lin said, seeking to turn around popular belief that only a for or against vote would be carried out in the floor session, once lawmakers across party lines agree to that.

Wang said he has passed Lin's views on to the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus, which now is planning to arrange a review of the pact in a joint meeting of the Legislature's eight standing committees on Monday.

Chen Chi-mai of the DPP, a co-convener of the Legislative Internal Administration Committee, has set such a schedule for Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, which, if realized, would be returning to what was supposed to have been done on March 17, one day before students stormed into the Legislature's main chamber.

Lin said a date has not yet been set for cross-party consultations on the pact, while Wang said he would wait for at an opportune moment to gather the different party caucuses for a discussion on the date.

Lin, who had met earlier in the day with Wang to make clear the KMT legislative caucus' stance on the pact, said he had also suggested that the floor sessions and committee meetings be suspended to protect lawmakers from the student-led protesters.

(By Justin Su and Scully Hsiao)

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