Officials debunk '5 rumors' regarding China service trade pact
Central News Agency
2014-03-23 10:53 PM
Taipei, March 23 (CNA) Top economics officials on Sunday lashed out against some professors and lawyers for mongering fear among the general public in regard to a trade-in-services pact with China. The pact, while waiting to be passed by the Legislature, has been at the center of a student-led protest as demonstrators are occupying the legislative chamber for the fifth day, plunging the country into a political crisis. Economics Affairs Minister Chang Chia-juch and other senior economics officials listed "five major rumors" which they claimed are spread by some professionals such as National Taiwan University Professor Cheng Hsiu-ling and former presidential adviser Hao Ming-yi to "mislead the people" about the pact's possible impacts on Taiwan. The first is that the trade-in-services pact with China, a follow-up on the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) between the two sides, is an "under-the-table deal" that had been signed in June 2013 in an opaque way. Chang and his deputies said in a press release that this is totally untrue because negotiations over the service trade pact were authorized by Article Four of ECFA and the progress of the negotiations had all been publicized in conjunction with the meetings of the cross-strait economic cooperation committee under ECFA. During the negotiations, 110 consultations and "small-scale seminars" were held with representatives of various affected industries or trade unions. After the deal was signed, 144 promotional conferences were held by the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA), according to the release. Before the pact was inked, according to the release, the executive branch had made three special reports to the Legislature, including one that is confidential, on the contents of the deal, MOEA said. Vice Economics Minister Cho Shih-chao pointed out that several Democratic Progressive Party legislators, including Chen Chi-mai, Yeh Yi-jin, Tuan Yi-kang and Yao Wen-chih, had registered to ask questions during the briefing sessions at the Legislature. The second rumor is that under the signed deal with China, Taiwan will open its door to Chinese immigrants. "The services trade pact does not even open up the employment market or allow investor immigrants from China, much less permanent residency or citizenship for the Chinese," said the MOEA. It quoted a "wrong" example cited by opponents to the deal -- that an investor restauranteur could hire his wife as a cook and his son as an accountant, so that the whole family would be able to immigrate to Taiwan. "The fact is that someone visiting Taiwan on a visa for dependents cannot work," it said. By no means is the government allowing the family of some Chinese making a US$200,000 investment in Taiwan to immigrate to the island, it added. The third rumor, according to the MOEA, is that jobs of millions of Taiwanese workers will be snatched away as Chinese workers will be imported to Taiwan under the trade-in-services pact with China. The MOEA's rebuttal is simple: Since the government is not opening up the employment market to Chinese, there certainly will not be an issue of Chinese workers coming to get jobs in Taiwan. It quoted government statistics as saying that as of the end of last year, only 259 Chinese investors and their dependents have been allowed entry into Taiwan, and they, however, have employed a total of 9,624 Taiwanese to work in the 483 investment projects that had been approved by the government. The fourth rumor, according to the officials, concerns the "unequal treaty" charges that the sectors and the "contents" of agreed-upon clauses are not "reciprocal." The officials explained that the government negotiators had taken into account "the overall national interests" before signing the pact and it is unfair to say Taiwan has got a bad deal because something it had demanded was not given in the agreement or the wording in its text does not appear to be "reciprocal." For instance, Deputy Economics Minister Duh Tyzz-jiun said both sides are opening up its funeral services market to the other, but in fact, while Taiwan is allowing Chinese to operate incinerators and funeral houses in Taiwan, Taiwanese are allowed also to operate "life memorizing facilities" -- meaning columbariums. "Which will be more profitable? Incinerators or columbariums?" he asked. Some sectors are clearly in Taiwan's favor, they said, pointing to accounting and bookkeeping, architect designs and real estate sales -- areas in which Taiwanese will be allowed to work in China but no Chinese in Taiwan. Moreover, the officials said, Taiwanese investors are given better treatment in China than other foreign investors while Chinese investors in some of the 64 allowed categories are being given treatment less preferential than that given to other foreign investors in Taiwan. The fifth rumor they tried to clear is related to national security concerns, such as construction and engineering services within the CPC511 to CPC518 internationally recognized codes. Clause Three of the pact clearly stipulates that the pact does not apply to all government procurement projects, as it is applicable only to private-sector building projects. "No government engineering projects will be allowed for Chinese investors," they said. Only three low-tech lines of telecom businesses which account for a minor share of the market are open to Chinese investors, according to the MOEA press release, which noted that the government has a strict security policy on private contractors' access to switch boards and telecom control rooms. In regard to the publication industry, according to the MOEA, "Taiwan is not opening up its publication industry market to China," and a 50-percent share limit imposed on Chinese investors in a Taiwanese publishing company, will be able to keep Taiwan's freedom of expression from being harmed by Chinese investments. As to the hair salon and beauty treatment business, China allows Taiwanese to own and run a shop in China while Taiwan has already opened this market to foreign investments. Currently, foreigners are involved in 89 beauty treatment businesses in Taiwan, employing mostly local workers, they said, adding "this means opening up this sector will not impact Taiwan's own beauty treatment industry." As to the tourism market, the MOEA said terms agreed between both sides in the pact actually are in Taiwan's favor because Chinese investors will be allowed to operate only three "national" travel services in Taiwan, which means they cannot even sell tour packages to mainland Chinese tourists. The Chinese tour operators are also restricted from extending their services into transportation (tour buses) and restaurant businesses. On the other hand, Taiwanese travel agencies in China will enjoy "national treatment" -- a privilege that will help them expand in the vast Chinese tour market, according to the MOEA. Chang said he himself had been a professor too but he simply could not agree with those distorted views about the services trade pact. "They should not think that they can talk irresponsibly because they are not public servants. History will write down what they have been saying," he said. (By Lin Hui-chun and S.C. Chang)
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