Taipei, March 29 (CNA) In a bid to assuage public misgivings, President Ma Ying-jeou
said Saturday that a controversial service trade pact with China
has a mechanism for dealing with problems once it goes into effect. Asked whether opening some sectors to Chinese investment could undermine national security, Ma cited Article 11 of the agreement as saying that if national security is involved, restrictions will be put in place. He also said that Article 8 of the pact states that once it goes into effect, if the service sector on one side is impacted, the affected side can ask for urgent consultations. Ma also said Article 19 of the pact states that one year after it goes into effect, the two sides will meet regularly each year to review the content of the agreement, and if revision is needed, both sides will have to give their consent and confirm it in written form. In addition, three years after it goes into effect, both sides can revise or revoke the commitments in the agreement, Ma said. On why it is improper to revise the content of the pact during the legislative screening process, Ma said that this is international practice. If one article is changed, and it is related to other articles, then many articles could have to be changed, which would mean renewed negotiation would be required. This, he said, would have an impact on Taiwan's credibility in the international community. He noted that the service trade pact is a follow-up to the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework agreement (ECFA) signed in 2010 and said that if it is not approved, it will affect the ongoing merchandise trade talks, which are now 85 percent complete. On whether the stalled service trade pact will affect a proposed meeting between himself and Chinese President Xi Jinping, Ma said that the two things are totally unrelated, noting that the two sides began negotiations on the pact two years ago, before Xi had even taken China
's helm. Ma made the remarks at a news conference called to address the demands of protesters over the pact.
A group of student-led protesters have occupied the Legislature's main chamber since breaking into the building March 18, in reaction to an attempt by the ruling Kuomintang to send the agreement straight to a vote on the legislative floor, bypassing legislative committee review. Arguing that the agreement was signed and rammed through without sufficient transparency, the protesters are demanding that the legislative process be halted and that a law be drawn up to monitor the negotiation of future cross-strait agreements (By Huang Chiao-wen, Kelven Huang and Lilian Wu)