Talk of the Day -- Service trade agreement with China

The newspapers on Sunday were filled with reports about what was discussed before Taiwan signed the latest agreement with China, and how the discussion was conducted between the executive and legislative branches of government. The following are excerpts from local media coverage of criticism of the alleged lack of transparency in the process and the response of government officials. China Times: Wang Yu-chi, head of the Cabinet's Mainland Affairs Council, denied allegations that there had been no prior communication with legislators over the agreement on trade in services. At a press conference, he listed the names of leaders of the Legislative Yuan and the dates when he met with them to discuss the agreement before its signing on June 21. Lai Shyh-bao, chief whip of the ruling Kuomintang's caucus at the legislature and one of the people on the list, said his meeting with Wang lasted only five minutes and he was briefed on when the agreement would be signed. There was no information on what businesses would be open to Chinese investment, or on the possible impact of the agreement on domestic businesses, said Lai. Some legislators compared Wang's alleged lack of communication with the way his predecessor Lai Shin-yuan handled the legislators before another major pact, the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), was signed with China in June 2010. Lai was said to have briefed legislators in closed-door sessions and sought their opinions in the middle of the night. In response, Wang promised to do a better job in the future. Agreements signed with China need to be reported to the Legislative Yuan, which has vowed to conduct a thorough scrutiny of the latest accord, as it did with the ECFA. United Daily News: Wang expressed hope that the legislature will hold a vote on the service trade agreement in its entirety after conducting an article-by-article review, using the ECFA review as a precedent. When defending the agreement against domestic criticism, Executive Yuan officials said the latest accord was significant because it will help Taiwan seal bilateral free trade agreements that are currently being negotiated with Singapore and New Zealand, respectively. For its part, the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) will formulate a response with the chiefs of municipal and county governments under DPP control. In a meeting with party officials, DPP chairman Su Tseng-chang said President Ma Ying-jeou was in "gross violation" of the democratic process by keeping the public in the dark about the contents of the latest agreement. (June 22, 2013).