China pact deadlock can be best resolved in Legislature: president

03/26/2014 11:08 PM
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Taipei, March 26 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou has pointed to an end to a standoff over a controversial trade pact with China, saying lawmakers hold the key to the deadlock as the dispute arose from differing opinions during reviews of the pact.

The current standoff over the trade-in-services pact developed because of a dispute that has arisen in the Legislature during deliberations over the pact between lawmakers of the nation's two major parties, Ma said in Chinese in an interview with the British publication The Economist in Taipei March 21.

Disputes concerning legislative reviews should be resolved through the Legislature's internal negotiation mechanism, Ma told The Economist's Beijing bureau chief James Miles.

"This will allow the review to proceed as originally planned," Ma said.

[Note: the video of the interview, conducted in Chinese, is available at the lower part of this page, with English subtitles.]

The best solution is to return to the "original consensus," he added, possibly referring to conclusions of cross-party consensus last year that the pact should be put through an item-by-item review and voted in the Legislature before taking effect.

Student-protesters stormed the Legislature in Taipei March 18 and have since been occupying it to protest moves by ruling Kuomintang lawmakers to fast-track the agreement to a full floor vote a day earlier.

On March 17, KMT lawmaker Chang Ching-chung declared the pact had been reviewed, sending the pact to a full floor vote, calling it an executive order that should be considered reviewed three months after deliberation began.

Days after the pact was signed last June, cross-party negotiations concluded that the pact will not take effect before it is put through an item-by-item review and vote.

The pact was sent for a review by the Legislature's eight standing committees last July but the review did not begin until March 12, 2014 after 20 public hearings on the pact had been held -- as both parties agreed.

The review began March 12 but progress had been stalled by disputes between KMT and DPP lawmakers who fought for control of the podium at the meeting room.

The president said "the different parties" were concerned that the lengthy delay in the review process might cause misgivings in the international community and "wanted to speed up the process."

Ma attributed the dispute partly to misunderstanding among the public that the pact was not put forth for public review, contending the government has over the past year or so held 110 rounds of talks with 46 different sectors.

However, the public might not know about the talks because most of the talks were small-scale, he said.

The president also sought to address other public concerns about the pact.

Regarding worries that the pact might take away local jobs, Ma said the pact will not open Taiwan's job market to Chinese workers and explicit restrictions on this respect are in place in Article 3 of the agreement.

Regarding concerns of the pact's threats to national security, Ma said Article 11 of the agreement prescribes restrictions that could be imposed if national security is threatened.

As to concerns that Taiwan is opening more sub-sectors to China than vice versa, Ma said Taiwan will be allowed access to 80 sub-sectors in China, many of which have not been included in the agreement because they had been liberalized in 2001 when China joined the WTO, Ma said.

Under the services trade pact, China will be allowed access to 64 sub-sectors in Taiwan.

Responding to questions on any plans to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Ma said Taiwan had floated a meeting at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit despite repeated rejections by China, saying that no other alternatives are in store.

(By Kelven Huang and Scully Hsiao)


Related stories:●March 26: Talk of the Day -- Legislators most to blame for parliamentary paralysis●March 26: Legislature talks over pact to wait until president meets protesters●March 25: Cross-party talk on services trade pact standoff fails again

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

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