Opposition slams Taiwan-China service trade accord

DPP demands review by Legislative Yuan

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Taiwan and China signed a service trade accord in Shanghai Friday despite opposition protests amid grave concerns about its impact on the island’s economy.
The Democratic Progressive Party and the Taiwan Solidarity Union accused the government of keeping the detailed contents of the agreement secret because the deal would harm small businesses and employees on the island. Both parties called on the government Friday to hand the pact over to the Legislative Yuan for review.
Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation Chairman Lin Join-sane and China’s Association for Relations across the Taiwan Straits President Chen Deming signed the accord around 2 p.m. Friday as part of their ninth round of talks since June 2008. Lin predicted the accord would modernize the services sector and create jobs. Taiwan would open 64 sectors to Chinese investment and participation, while in the other direction, China was planning to open up 80 business sectors, reports said.
The opposition parties boycotted the special session of the Legislative Yuan Friday in a protest against the signing of the accord, while dozens of writers and artists showed up outside the Presidential Office building to attack the government’s alleged lack of understanding of cultural issues. Negotiators were experts in business and finance but had no experience with the protection of cultural values, they said. The trade treaty amounted to “mindless opening” and to “a surrender before the war even started,” protesters said.
The original reason for the legislative boycott was an attempt to stop the passage of a government proposal for the SEF to open three offices in China and the ARATS one office in Taipei. The DPP says the SEF offices should have consular and visitation rights, or otherwise they would not be useful and turn into a symbol of Taiwan’s unequal treatment by China.
Lin said the issue of the offices would be placed on the agenda of the next round of talks expected to be held in Taiwan before the end of the year. Other topics for discussion at the 10th round would include the resolution of disputes, products trade, the avoidance of double taxation, and cooperation on climate and earthquake issues, the SEF chairman said.
Friday morning, DPP lawmakers announced a campaign to encourage members of the public to phone the Presidential Office and call on the government not to sign the agreement.
Service businesses were wondering which sectors of the economy would be affected by the deal and to what extent because the government had failed to talk to them, DPP legislative whip Chiu Yi-ying said. She added that the lack of explanations from the government was one of the reasons why the opposition was boycotting the special session of the Legislative Yuan now on the way.
President Ma Ying-jeou and his Kuomintang government should explain what they were planning to sign and how it would affect 4.7 million business people and workers in Taiwan before they signed a document no member of the public knew anything about, Chiu said.
The new agreement would have an even stronger impact on Taiwan’s economy than the contested 2010 Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement with China, she warned.
DPP lawmaker Lee Chun-yi criticized the government for providing no content about the agreement, for not having evaluated its impact on Taiwan’s economy and for not having a clear strategy. The administration was only signing the agreement to project an image of good relations with China, but it would not make any contribution to the upgrading of the country’s economy, Lee said.
Former DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen said a cross-straits agreement should not just be discussed by a handful of people from both sides but should face widespread debate in order to evaluate the pros and cons.
Leading figures in the sectors of printing, publishing, hair care and tourism had registered strong opposition against the deal because the government had never told them what kind of liberalization measures they faced, she said.
Taiwan’s society found it unacceptable that the government should make concessions to China while enforcing measures on Taiwanese businesses without consulting them, Tsai said in an online statement. The former opposition leader called on the Legislative Yuan to review the SEF-ARATS agreement and to change what needed to be changed.
The public needed to warn the Ma Administration that such an accord could only succeed if it won wide acceptance in Taiwan, Tsai said, adding that its terms needed to correspond to the nation’s basic interests.
The TSU demanded the Cabinet submit the trade accord to the Legislature for review. Articles which were not in Taiwan’s interest would not be approved, the party said.
In a reaction to the demands, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng reportedly said that so far, he had no special understanding of the contents of the trade pact.
According to media reports, Taiwan and China could hold an annual review of the pact, with changes and expansions of the measures possible. There would also be a mechanism to inspect violations and the non-fulfillment of promises, the Chinese-language United Evening News reported. New trading barriers could not be erected, the agreement reportedly stipulated. If one side felt it was being unduly affected by the pact, it would have the right to demand an emergency procedure to correct the situation, the paper wrote.
Under the first details revealed Friday, Taiwanese printing and publishing groups would be allowed to start operations in China, but their Chinese partners or co-investors would still maintain the upper hand, reports said. The review process for Taiwanese publications would be shortened and simplified.
Taiwanese companies would be allowed to manage joint-venture concert halls and theaters in China, but some cultural and entertainment products, such as computer games, would still face content reviews of up to two months, reports said. The number of Chinese movies allowed to be screened in Taiwan would rise to 15 from ten. China reportedly has no quota on Taiwanese movies, though it reviews content before allowing films to be shown at local theaters.
Under the new pact, travel agencies can set up new companies in each other’s country. However, Chinese agencies setting up shop in Taiwan would only be allowed to sell domestic trips to residents of Taiwan, making it hard for them to compete with the more than 2,000 local travel agencies, the government said. They would not be allowed to handle tourists from China visiting the island. In contrast, Taiwanese travel companies in China would not face similar restrictions apart from only being allowed to arrange trips inside the country.