Ma pushes services pact after students announce pullout

04/07/2014 10:25 PM
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President Ma Ying-jeou (right) and Premier Jiang Yi-huah.
President Ma Ying-jeou (right) and Premier Jiang Yi-huah.

Taipei, April 7 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou on Monday hailed a decision by student protesters to withdraw from the Legislature and called on lawmakers across party lines to consider legislation on overseeing agreements with China as soon as possible.

The president also invited Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng to work out differences between the ruling and opposition parties so that the oversight bill can be passed during the current legislative session, scheduled to end in late May.

Ma issued the appeals following a legislative caucus meeting of the ruling Kuomintang and shortly after student protesters who have occupied the Legislature's main chamber since March 18 announced they would pull out of the venue on Thursday.

The occupation was held to protest the handling and content of a trade-in-services agreement Taiwan signed with China in June 2013.

The students demanded that the review of the pact be shelved until legislation on scrutinizing cross-Taiwan Strait pacts in a more transparent way with greater public participation was passed.

In a statement Sunday, Wang essentially agreed to the students' demand, leading to the announcement by the students, who had come under mounting pressure to withdraw from the Legislature.

Ma, who has pushed aggressively to have the lawmaking body ratify the services pact, was hoping that the oversight bill could be handled quickly to move the trade pact to center stage, but he also hoped the two measures could be dealt with at the same time.

He said that Wang in his statement "did not oppose an item-by-item review of the trade-in-services pact," and cited public opinion polls as showing that a majority of people in Taiwan were in favor of having the oversight bill and a review of the pact happen at the same time.

Wang's remarks "were not at odds with the government's long-standing stance and we see them positively," Ma said, expressing the hope that the pact's review could happen soon.

Premier Jiang Yi-huah on the same occasion voiced concerns that the formula advocated by the students and backed by Wang could be abused by opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers.

He said he was not afraid of enacting a law to monitor cross-strait agreements but worried that the DPP would use stalling tactics to delay passage of both the oversight bill and the services pact.

"Neither the demonstrating students nor the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have pleged to help complete the legislation of the oversight bill by a specific deadline," he said.

In pushing to deal with the oversight bill and the services pact simultaneously, the president cited the views of several business leaders.

According to Ma, Lai Cheng-i, head of the General Chamber of Commerce of the Republic of China, has advocated the idea of handling the two measures at the same time.

Lai said that enacting the law will take at least three to six months, and members of his chamber are getting anxious that the drawn-out process will delay a merchandise trade pact with China, which is still being negotiated.

It could also hurt Taiwan's prospects to get into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a U.S.-led Pacific rim trade bloc that is still in the negotiation stage.

"Taiwan has no time for further delays," Ma said.

The president also cited Hsu Sheng-fa, chairman of the Taipei-based Chinese National Federation of Industries, as saying that the services pact is like riding bicycle up a hill -- one can be fast or slow, but there is no room for backpedaling.

Bruce Cheng, founder of Delta Electronics Inc., was cited as saying that if the service pact was not quickly approved, it would stall Taiwan's attempt to sign free trade agreements with other countries and leave the country marginalized.

(By Hsieh Chia-chen, Lee Shu-hua, S. C. Chang and Lilian Wu)


Related stories:●April 7: Student protesters announce withdrawal from Legislature●April 6: Ma calls for early passage of services pact despite Wang's pledge●April 6: Legislative speaker promises to enact cross-strait monitoring law first (update)

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

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