Economics minister tries to allay fears over service trade pact

Taipei, June 25 (CNA) Economics Minister Chang Chia-juch attempted to dispel fears Tuesday that a service trade pact signed with China will allow Chinese workers into Taiwan and hurt the job prospects of local workers. Chang said that during past rounds of openings to China investment in Taiwan, Chinese-invested projects generally hired Taiwanese workers with the exception of a few executive positions, citing government figures. He said 398 Chinese investment projects were approved between June 2009, when Taiwan first opened its doors to investment from China, and the end of May, but only 216 Chinese executives or technicians had come to work in Taiwan on those projects.
As of the end of 2012, Chinese investors in Taiwan had hired 6,771 local workers, he added. Under the cross-strait service trade deal signed in Shanghai on June 21, China has agreed to open 80 service categories to Taiwanese investors, compared with 64 categories being opened by Taiwan to Chinese investment. The agreement has been harshly criticized by the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for the lack of transparency of the negotiations, and DPP spokesman Lin Chun-hsien said it would fight the deal in the Legislature and on the streets. Lin said the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) signed between Taiwan and China in 2010 had not only not upgraded Taiwan's economy but actually locked Taiwan into China.
The service trade pact, as a follow-up agreement to the ECFA, would be just as bad, Lin said, because it would make any future increases in wages impossible. But Lin warned that the ECFA follow-up pact on trade in goods that government hopes to complete by the end of the year would even be more dangerous to Taiwan's economy. The DPP also opened a complaint hot line (02-2321-5236) to let affected manufacturers and other sectors voice their grievances, adding that the party would help convey their views. Unhappy with the government's handling of the service pact negotiations and its keeping lawmakers in the dark during the process, the Legislature has pushed for a role in approving the agreement. It reached a consensus Tuesday that it would review the pact line by line and that the agreement would not be legally binding until it passed the lawmaking body. Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng said Tuesday the Mainland Affairs Council -- Taiwan's main China policy planning agency -- will brief the Legislature on the service trade pact Wednesday. (By Huang Chiao-wen, Justine Su, Chen Hsun-hsieh and Lilian Wu)