• On protests against the Cross-Strait Agreement on Trade in Services (TiSA)

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    The government of the Republic of China (Taiwan) affirms the concern shown by students and the public for national affairs, specifically the Cross-Strait Agreement on Trade in Services (TiSA), and supports the expression of opinions through democratic and peaceful means. The government is willing to engage in democratic and rational dialogue with those holding different views, but cannot accept the student occupation of the Legislative Yuan in a demand for dialogue.

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    The ROC (Taiwan) is a democratic nation governed by the rule of law. The TiSA is now under review by the Legislative Yuan. The differing opinions of the ruling and opposition parties, as well as of different segments of society, should be worked out through the normal procedures of the Legislative Yuan until consensus is reached. As the present controversy over the TiSA stems from a procedural dispute between the ruling and opposition party caucuses, the key to its resolution is the prompt reinstatement of legislative operations and guarantee of constitutional order. The Legislative Yuan’s internal negotiation mechanism can bring the dispute to a peaceful end. The results of legislative review are not something that the president nor the Executive Yuan can control.

    The government will absolutely not make any concessions in response to the illegal protests but welcomes communication with all segments of society. Only public policies obtained on a foundation of communication possess a democratic basis. In fact, the government has consistently shown goodwill toward groups opposing the TiSA. In addition to intensive interparty negotiations held by Legislative Yuan President Wang Jin-pyng, President Ma Ying-jeou hopes student representatives will accept his invitation for dialogue in the Presidential Office in an effort to achieve a satisfactory solution responding to people’s concerns through peaceful and rational means. The government will also continue communicating with the public and further explain the TiSA.

    Nine months have elapsed since the signing of the TiSA last June, and the legally mandated procedure is already under legislative review. The government supports an item-by-item review and vote on the agreement by the Legislative Yuan, but cannot agree that the Executive Yuan withdraw the agreement as the harm caused to Taiwan would be too great.

    The government has promoted the TiSA to stimulate Taiwan’s services sector, ensure economic vitality and create conditions conducive to Taiwan participating in the process of Asia-Pacific economic integration. All of these objectives are extremely important for Taiwan.

    Research by Taipei-based Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research shows that the TiSA will increase Taiwan’s services exports to mainland China by 37 percent, or NT$12 billion (US$394 million), while creating up to 12,000 jobs in Taiwan. Support for the agreement equates to support for the country’s services sector, job market and economy.

    The TiSA is part of the Cross-Straits Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), which is a bilateral trade pact concluded in accordance with the principles of the World Trade Organization (WTO). If the agreement is not passed, it will severely damage Taiwan’s credibility in the international community, hamper efforts to liberalize trade, and affect the country’s chances of joining regional trade blocs such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). This would harm Taiwan’s economic future.

    If the TiSA cannot be passed and come into force, the major repercussions will be: Taiwan’s service industries will lose the advantage of early entry to the mainland Chinese market; Taiwan’s accession to regional economic integration mechanisms—including the TPP and RCEP—will be delayed; and future talks with mainland China under the ECFA on a trade in goods agreement and dispute settlement mechanism will be influenced, which will jeopardize the development of Taiwan’s external trade.

    President Ma Ying-jeou has openly pledged support for the institutionalization of a mechanism for oversight of cross-strait agreements. He also called upon members of the Legislative Yuan from both the ruling and opposition parties to complete this before the end of this current session of the legislature.

    In fact, on February 19 the Kuomintang caucus in the Legislative Yuan proposed a four-stage mechanism for oversight and cross-strait communication. The mechanism, which the Executive Yuan is also willing to accept, would be a standard operating procedure for public oversight of cross-strait agreements before they are submitted to the Legislative Yuan. The four stages are: during the process of issue formation, when the content of an agreement is taking shape; communication among relevant agencies during negotiations; reporting to the Legislative Yuan on the principal contents prior to the signing of the agreement; and after the signing, disclosure of detailed information deemed sensitive in the preceding stages. This mechanism covers internal communication among administrative agencies, interaction between the legislative and executive branches, monitoring by the Legislative Yuan, communication with relevant groups, and explanations to the public. The Mainland Affairs Council has drafted measures for institutionalizing these procedures, which will be made public in early April.

    In the future, cross-strait agreements that have not yet been signed, or that have already been signed but have not yet been submitted to the Legislative Yuan for review, can be subject to a better oversight process. However, regarding agreements already signed and submitted to the Legislative Yuan for review (including the TiSA), legislative review and the aforementioned oversight process can proceed simultaneously without any problem.

    The Republic of China is a democratic nation governed by the rule of law. With democracy and freedom, however, also comes the obligation for citizens to abide by the law.

    The government has taken a rational, peaceful, democratic and lawful approach in dealing with the occupation of the Legislative Yuan chamber by those protesting against TiSA, and in communicating with them. However, the forcible occupation of the Executive Yuan March 23 by those opposed to the agreement, the destruction of public property and disruption of government administration are irrational and nonproductive acts. As the Executive Yuan is the nerve center of the administrative branch of the ROC government, it was necessary to use police power to remove the protesters, in order to maintain social order and public authority, and keep the nation in good working order.

    Shields and batons are basic equipment used by police when dealing with protesters. They are used by police to defend against fierce pushing and shoving during law-enforcement actions in any country governed by the rule of law. There were more than 5,000 protesters and police at the Executive Yuan and its plaza. Under such circumstances, it was impossible to ensure no one was injured during removal of protesters by the police. However, claims by some protesters that the eviction was a “bloody suppression” are gross distortions of fact. If a few police officers did use excessive force, the government will investigate and hold violators accountable in accordance with the law.

    Before the pact was signed June 2013, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Mainland Affairs Council and related agencies have jointly organized over 110 forums with 264 representatives from 46 service industries. After signing, 144 meetings have been held to explain the TiSA with more than 7,900 people attending. The Legislative Yuan also held 20 public hearings, and relevant agencies have briefed the Legislative Yuan three times. This is unprecedented in the country’s legislative history. The strict process of an item-by-item review and vote further underscores its transparency.

    Under the pact, mainland China allows Taiwan access to 80 subsectors, compared to 64 in Taiwan for mainland China—many of which were in substance opened already. Moreover, Taiwan will enjoy more favorable access to the mainland Chinese market than other WTO members, but none of the subsectors opened to mainland China will exceed WTO standards. Thus, the TiSA is not an unequal treatment with mainland China.

    The TiSA will not open Taiwan to mainland Chinese workers, and will not change immigration policies with regard to mainland Chinese. On the whole, the agreement does more good than harm, and is crucial to the country’s future economic development. As of the end of January 2014, the government had approved 495 mainland Chinese investment cases, with investment of US$870 million. Mainland Chinese company executive managers, specialists and family members who have come to Taiwan in association with these cases number just 264, while these firms have provided jobs for 9,624 Taiwanese. It is evident that mainland Chinese investment not only brings in capital for Taiwan’s industries and financial market, but also creates jobs for the people. Under the pact, executive managers or technical specialists of mainland Chinese enterprises in their first year in Taiwan could in principle receive only a multiple re-entry permit valid for one year. Starting from the second year, the firm’s business volume would have to reach NT$10 million (US$326,279) before the employee could apply for a new re-entry permit. The government has not given mainland Chinese investors, company executive managers or technical specialists unlimited entry permits, nor has it permitted their long-term residence.

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