Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement will benefit Taiwan

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 April, 2014, 4:48am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 April, 2014, 4:48am

Last month Taiwanese students began their occupation of the Legislative Yuan to protest against the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement, and I would like to clarify the views of the government of Taiwan.

Your readers will have seen the television coverage where young people joined protests to express strongly held views. This is evidence of the success of Taiwan's process of democratisation.

Republic of China President Ma Ying-jeou formally responded to the four requests of the protesters, including drafting a bill on legalising a supervision mechanism for cross-strait agreements. The ruling Kuomintang caucus agreed to an item-by-item review and vote on the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement, and the Executive Yuan will study the feasibility of holding a national affairs conference, national trade and economic consultation meeting or citizens' constitution meeting.

There appears to be some confusion over the agreement. Some claim it is an unequal pact reviewed in secret and presented as a fait accompli. But nothing could be further from the truth. It is a fair agreement negotiated and entered into in good faith by both sides, promising to deliver significant benefits for the people of Taiwan while assisting the country to continue along the road towards internationalisation, liberalisation and regional economic integration.

Before student protesters occupied the parliament on March 18, lawmakers were working to finalise the review of the agreement. During this process, they held 20 public hearings on it and received three comprehensive briefings from the Mainland Affairs Council, Ministry of Economic Affairs and related agencies. Over the past year these organisations also held 110 related forums attended by representatives of 46 industries in Taiwan.

If the review of the agreement remains stalled, the impact on Taiwan will be significant. We will lose the advantage of early entry into the mainland Chinese market. Also, accession to regional trade blocs such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership will be affected, jeopardising the development of Taiwan's external trade.

As Taiwan is a free and democratic country governed by the rule of law, wide-ranging debate over the agreement is encouraged and welcomed by the government. But this must take place in a rational manner with respect for all segments of society. Student protesters should consider ending their occupation of the legislature. In this way, their concerns can be properly addressed and lawmakers can resume an item-by-item review of the pact.

Suzie Chen, Taipei Economic and Cultural Office