The Taiwanese cabinet swiftly approved draft legislation yesterday that would increase scrutiny of future agreements with the mainland - a move aimed at ending student-led protests raging for more than two weeks.
The Statute for the Processing and Monitoring of Agreements Between the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area, however, was not expected to be enough to convince protesters to stop their fight against a services trade pact with the mainland.
Claiming that the pact would kill Taiwanese jobs and endanger the island's democracy by cementing ties with the mainland, about 200 students stormed the legislative chamber in Taipei on March 18 to block its legislative review.
The students have vowed to remain in parliament until Beijing-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou withdraws the pact and enacts a law to oversee future cross-strait agreements.
The new statute - proposed by Taiwan's top cross-strait-policy body, the Mainland Affairs Council - will soon be sent to the legislature for review and approval.
It calls for the establishment of a "four, plus two" mechanism. Four refers to the number of stages of development for all cross-strait deals. Those include the recognition of the need for an agreement, the start of negotiations, preparations for signing and a post-signing review.
The two refers to the two bodies - the cabinet and the National Security Council - that must approve any pact before it can become law.
Officials involved in the negotiations for a proposed pact must brief lawmakers, opinion leaders, the media and other concerned sectors before and after it is signed.
Public hearings would be held after each pact is cleared by the National Security Council, which must agree that the deal poses no risks to the island's security, according to the draft.
However, student protesters and the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party yesterday cast doubt on whether the statute would increase scrutiny on such agreements, saying that lawmakers should revisit their own proposals instead.
Lin Chun-hsien, a DPP spokesman, said that the bill did not contain rules on aborting an agreement.
"What [the government] has drafted contains no binding regulations that could stop a pact in question from being signed and ratified," Lin said.
Mainland Affairs Council chairman Wang Yu-chi, however, said that the negotiation or signing of an agreement would be called off if any party with oversight raised an irreconcilable objection.
Wang said it would be difficult for the cabinet to accept the opposition camp's proposed draft, as it would likely leave all potential agreements unsigned.
According to the version proposed by the students and the opposition, public hearings must first be held to decide whether a potential pact should be signed, and all content must be disclosed to the public during talks.
It defines cross-strait agreements as those between the Republic of China, Taiwan's official title, and the People's Republic of China, something Beijing was likely to oppose. Some Taiwanese media wryly called the students' version "the regulation [whereby] no cross-strait deals could be signed".