Business sector to discuss pros and cons of trade pact with China

Taipei, March 23 (CNA) The head of the General Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan said Sunday it will host a series of hearings this week for businesses in the local service sector to give their views on the benefits and disadvantages of a controversial trade pact with China. Lai Cheng-yi, also chairman of the local construction group Shining, said the participants will include representatives of beauty treatment and car maintenance enterprises, which are among the businesses that will open up to Chinese investment under the pact. Taiwan and China signed the trade-in-services agreement last June but it has been stuck in the Legislature amid concerns about eroded job and business opportunities in the service industry, including the printing, beauty treatment and restaurant businesses. On March 18, student-led demonstrators stormed the Legislature and since then have been occupying the chamber in protest against ruling Kuomintang lawmakers' efforts to fast track the legislative processing of the agreement. Opposition lawmakers have been seeking to have the pact examined item-by-item but progress was stalled until March 17, when KMT legislators unilaterally announced that the legislative committees' joint review of the agreement had been completed and the pact should be examined next at floor session. In a public address on the issue Sunday, President Ma Ying-jeou said his administration had agreed on an item-by-item legislative review. He urged the protesters, meanwhile, to vacate the Legislature soon so that it can it can resume its normal functions. Lai said he also supports the proposal of an item-by-item review, but only if it would take public interest into consideration. He said he was against irrational or violent actions to stall or block such examination of the pact and suggested that lawmakers complete their review within a month. (By Constant Wu and Scully Hsiao)