SEF continues efforts to tout cross-strait trade pact
CNATAIPEI, Taiwan -- The head of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) again talked up a controversial cross-Taiwan Strait service trade pact on Tuesday, saying that it would open up big opportunities for Taiwan's service sector in China.
September 4, 2013, 2:20 am TWN
Speaking at the opening of a cross-strait commerce center in Taipei, SEF Chairman Lin Join-sane said Taiwan had a competitive edge over China in the service sector and would be able to use the opening created by the agreement to gain a foothold in China's huge market.
Taiwan's service sector currently accounts for nearly 70 percent of its gross domestic product, compared to about 40 percent in China, leaving plenty of room for China's service sector to grow, Lin said.
“For mainland China to reach Taiwan's level there is a roughly 25-percent gap. Twenty-five percent of 1.3 billion people represents a very big commercial opportunity,” Lin said.
Under the pact, which was signed in July but has yet to receive legislative approval, China would open up 80 service categories to Taiwanese investors, while Taiwan would open 64 categories to Chinese investors.
Lin argued that the agreement's terms are favorable to Taiwan, citing as an example that Chinese investors could not hold over half the shares in a company in Taiwan's printing sector or employ Chinese workers, a set-up tantamount “to putting up capital and having us be the boss.”
Many critics of the agreement contend there are loopholes allowing Chinese investors to bring in cheap white collar workers from the mainland and that they can find ways around company ownership limits.
They also argue that the agreement would benefit Taiwan's large conglomerates at the expense of the small- and medium-sized businesses that form the backbone of Taiwan's economy and would lead to an exodus of Taiwan's top professionals in many fields.
The government has held 100 meetings on the pact to try to ease misgivings about it, and the Legislature will hold 16 more public hearings on the issue, Lin said.
He hoped that the Legislature will complete its review as soon as possible.
At the same ceremony, another participant said there was no need to worry about reports that China was prepared to accord Hong Kong the same treatment as promised Taiwan in the service trade pact next year.
Media reports cited Chinese commerce officials as saying that the service trade pact had drawn protests from Hong Kong's government and that China would give Hong Kong the same conditions starting on Jan. 1, 2014.
William Wang, head of the Taipei-based Greater China Chain Management Association, said that if China gave Hong Kong and its robust financial services sector the same openings as it's given Taiwan, Taiwan's financial institutions could face a challenge.