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In services pact dispute, economist sees an alternative
Central News Agency
2014-04-12 10:05 PM
Taipei, April 12 (CNA) The government should shelve a trade-in-services agreement with China that has sparked widespread opposition and push for a more important merchandise trade pact, Ma Kai, a respected Taiwan-based economist, said Saturday. Ma Kai said at a forum in Taichung that the government has negotiated the two pacts simultaneously, but its thinking in putting the more complex services pact before the merchandise trade pact was flawed. He argued that the priority now should be to continue work on the merchandise trade pact based on the original plan, which foresaw negotiations being completed by June. That would allow the confrontations over the trade-in-services pact to cool down and prevent it from becoming the focus of society, Ma contended. He said government officials should not continue to insist on getting legislative ratification of the pact before talking about anything else, and he believed Beijing would be happy to see the early completion of the merchandise trade pact. Controversy over the services pact has sparked an unprecedented 24-day occupation of legislature by student protesters that ended on April 10.

The services pact still faces an uphill battle, however, after Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng agreed to student demands to pass an oversight bill on cross-Taiwan Strait agreements before reviewing the controversial agreement. The economist also dismissed the government's argument that if the trade-in-services pact fails to pass, it will affect Taiwan's efforts to join two regional trade blocs currently under negotiation -- the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership and the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. He said the authorities need to realize that the merchandise trade pact with China is the main target at present Though questioning the government's strategy, Ma argued that its goal to further liberalize Taiwan's economy was essential to the country's economic survival. Taiwan has resorted to protectionism for five decades, leaving its people fearing liberalization and needing the government's protection to feel safe and develop. In today's world, however, if Taiwan cannot open up and reach out to the world, it will be doomed, Ma said. He suggested that the government try to gradually get people to realize that there is only one direction, which is opening up, but at the same time reduce the adverse impact of liberalization to a minimum, and give the most vulnerable groups as much support as possible. "I feel that these are the two major areas in which the current government is most lacking," Ma said.

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