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Legislative Yuan postpones China service trade pact until March
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2013-12-20 03:01 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The Legislative Yuan agreed Friday to postpone its review of the service trade pact with China until next March at the earliest, dealing a blow to the government of President Ma Ying-jeou.

Taiwan and China signed the accord last June amid widespread criticism that it had been reached amid secrecy and that it would lead to the bankruptcy of numerous Taiwanese small and medium enterprises, causing rising unemployment.

Opposition protest managed to force the government to accept that the Legislature would be able to review the pact clause by clause and vote on each clause separately.

The different caucuses at the Legislative Yuan, including the ruling Kuomintang and the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party, reached an agreement Friday that the pact would not be discussed during the present session but be put on the agenda after the final public hearing on the issue is held on March 10.

Separately, the current legislative session will be extended beyond the end of this month until January 14 in order to allow lawmakers to complete the review of the central government budget for 2014.

The KMT had initially wanted to put the trade accord on the agenda for December 26 despite an earlier agreement to first complete a series of 16 hearings. Ma, government leaders and prominent business organizations have repeatedly emphasized the need for quick passage in order to benefit the economy, but the opposition says clauses which would harm Taiwan should be voted down and renegotiated with China.

DPP lawmaker Tuan Yi-kang, who is scheduled to chair three public hearings about the agreement, said that if the KMT wanted to force the passage through there might even be bloodshed at the Legislative Yuan. The hearings have been scheduled for January 2, 13, and March 10.

Taiwan Solidarity Union caucus chief Hsu Chung-hsin welcomed the KMT concession to delay the pact review until March.

On Wednesday, the president still told the Central Standing Committee of the ruling party that passage of the service trade accord was an essential precondition for Taiwan to participate in regional economic integration. He reportedly described the hearings as repetitive and accused the DPP of using them as an instrument to slow down the procedure.

The KMT said its leader’s wish to have the Legislative Yuan begin the review did not amount to strong-arms tactics, but was intended to let the public understand more details of the pact through the clause-by-clause discussions.

After cross-straits negotiators signed the deal in Shanghai on June 21, critics warned it was unequal and was more likely to harm Taiwan. Even though Beijing agreed to liberalize 80 sectors opposed to Taiwan’s 64, opponents say the Chinese concessions are limited by geographical area and by the fact that censorship in the country is more heavy-handed. The DPP has warned that the weakest and smallest companies in Taiwan might be wiped out by the arrival of Chinese competition.

The pact about the trade in services is only a prelude to talks about trade in goods, which critics say might reach even further and damage agriculture in particular.

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