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Ma Calls for Consensus on Services Pact
ROC President Ma Ying-jeou Urges Bipartisan Cooperation for Cross-Strait Ttade Issue
ROC President Ma Ying-jeou

ROC President Ma Ying-jeou urged Taiwan’s two major political parties to return to their original legislative consensus and resolve ongoing discord over the Cross-Strait Agreement on Trade in Services.

Disputes concerning legislative review of the services pact “should be resolved through the Legislature’s internal negotiation mechanism. This would allow the review to proceed as originally planned,” the president said in a recent interview with U.K.-based The Economist in Taipei City.

“Last October, negotiations held between the ruling and opposition parties concluded that the trade in services agreement would be subject to an item-by-item review and vote. The government, too, agreed with this approach,” Ma said, adding that he believes the issue can be solved by returning to the review process agreed upon in the Legislature.

The president acknowledged that matters involving cross-strait relations are prone to cause some degree of contention in Taiwan. This is because there is not yet a decisive consensus on how to develop relations with mainland China.

Ma said the pact is part of the Cross-Straits Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) signed in 2010, covering trade in services and goods, settlement of disputes and economic cooperation.

“The current situation is caused mainly by a misunderstanding among the public that the trade in services agreement was not put forth for public review,” Ma said. “As a matter of fact, over the past year or so, the government has held 110 rounds of talks with 46 different sectors. But because most were small-scale, the public might not have known about them,” he added.

Ma said the pact does not pose a major threat to Taiwan, citing Articles 3 and 11 of the agreement that put explicit restrictions in place to safeguard Taiwan’s job market and national security, respectively.

According to the president, the ECFA has expanded Taiwan’s international presence, facilitating an investment agreement with Japan and economic cooperation agreements with New Zealand and Singapore.

Failure to ratify the services agreement, or moving to renegotiate its terms, will have serious consequences for Taiwan’s trade relations with mainland China and other economies, Ma said. The international community will start questioning Taiwan’s commitment to free trade and regional economic integration in light of domestic disagreements over procedural issues, he added.

“Our sincerity and determination would be questioned,” the president said. “If after signing the deal with [mainland China], we then reverse course, we would no longer be credible. We might be regarded as an unreliable trade partner.”

It will be detrimental to Taiwan’s pursuit of similar deals with the EU and U.S., let alone efforts to join regional trade blocs such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, he added.

The above story, which was contributed to The Seoul Times by the Taipei Mission in Korea, was published on Taiwan Today.






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