Ma Ying-jeou responds to student demands

Ma Ying-jeou posed a rhetorical question in a press conference Sunday at noon, asking "Are we not proud of Taiwan's democracy and rule of law?" Ma asserted that the behavior of students protesting the Cross-Strait Agreement on Trade in Services has affected the functions of the government and is in violation of the rule of law. At the same time, he also stressed that the agreement must be allowed to pass for the sake of Taiwan's economy, otherwise it will affect our country's international reputation. Members of the local and foreign media were put off by the Presidential Office’s restriction to only three questions from reporters, and Ma left quickly as soon as the allotted three questions had been asked..

Students opposing the trade pact have pointed out the Ma Ying-jeou participated in student movements to fight for recognition of students studying in the US when he was a student at Harvard. Alerted to this fact, Ma quickly changed the subject, saying that rule of law is the foundation of democracy, and noting that upholding rule of law is a fundamental basis of democracy in Taiwan. He added that the trade agreement is still being studied and has not yet been finalized, but the students pointed out that they were not satisfied with the way the congressional review procedure has been progressing. Ma asked, "Is this the kind of democracy we want? Are we not proud of Taiwan's democracy and rule of law?" He stressed that there if there is no rule of law, democracy is not guaranteed in Taiwan.

Ma went on to list some of the benefits promised by the trade in services agreement, emphasizing that the agreement is "essential to the future of Taiwan's economy." He pointed out that 70 percent of Taiwan’s GDP comes from foreign trade and noted that tariffs imposed on Taiwan’s products by other countries are some 3% to 7% higher than those imposed on goods from Singapore and South Korea. He said that if Taiwan does not catch up as soon as possible in this area, the island is in danger of being marginalized in world trade. Ma stressed that "regional economic integration is an unstoppable trend everywhere around the world, and we really have no choice, we cannot wait!" He said that pressure from Taiwan’s biggest competitor South Korea means that if the service trade agreement is not signed Taiwan will be totally incapable of competing in the marketplace.

Ma said that if the agreement does not pass Taiwan’s efforts in building an international reputation will be impacted, and the country will find it more difficult to join blocs like the TPP and RCEP.

A reporter asked whether the cross-strait trade agreements address all relevant national security factors and enquired why the government has been reluctant to publish any national security impact assessment reports regarding the trade in services agreement. Ma responded that Beijing has brought absolutely no pressure on Taiwan to sign the agreement, pointing out that the agreement limits China’s stake in joint ventures on projects in the construction industry will be limited to a maximum of 12% and cannot include public works projects or projects in the telecommunications industry.

Many people appear to be more concerned about KMT legislator Ching-chung Chang’s remark about "secret readings" of clauses than the actual advantages and disadvantages supposedly posed by the trade in services agreement. Such private discussions have been reportedly held regarding sections of the trade in services agreement before they are sent to the full Legislative Yuan. Ma pointed out that the DPP-led committee had earlier allowed KMT legislators to speak, but when the rotating presidency returned management of the committee to the KMT, the ruling party would not even allow opposition members to speak out on issues. In this situation parts of the trade in services agreement were sent to the full Legislative Yuan, but opposition figures insist that they need to be re-examined.