Service pact needs deliberation: MOEA head
By John Liu ,The China PostTAIPEI, Taiwan -- A delay of cross-strait service trade agreement deliberation in the Legislature not only may affect Taiwan's trade relations with China, but also Taiwan's chances of setting up trade agreements with other countries, Economics Minister Chang Chia-juch (張家祝) said yesterday.
September 19, 2013, 12:25 am TWN
Chang attended a Taiwan Business investment summit yesterday. As some countries are considering establishing trade agreements with Taiwan, they are all very attentive to whether or not the cross-strait service trade agreement will clear the Legislature, Chang said.
Chang denied a recent allegation that the Chinese government pressured Taiwan to push through the service trade agreement as reported in the media. However, the Chinese government is very concerned about the political conflict involving Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), as it may affect the service trade agreement.
Local media reported that the Chinese government contacted Wang in private regarding concerns that the deliberation over the agreement will not proceed as planned.
“I heard that the Chinese government has exerted pressure on Taiwan. Nevertheless, everyone is concerned about the issue, including people in Taiwan,” Chang said, adding that he hopes the agreement will clear the Legislature as soon as possible so that further negotiations with China could continue without delay.
Teco Group (東元集團) chairman Theodore Huang (黃茂雄) said that China would not press Taiwan to pass the service trade agreement immediately. The Legislature will make the best decision once a consensus has been made, Huang added. Any extended delay in the Legislature, however, may add uncertainty and result in changes. Nevertheless, Huang expressed optimism that the service trade agreement will eventually clear the house.
Political conflict between Legislative Speaker Wang and President Ma Ying-jeou may affect the country's economy. While some believe politics and the economy can be regarded as two separate issues, Huang said they are bound to affect each other, adding that political stability is therefore very important.
Electricity Price to Hike as Scheduled
Chang also said yesterday that electricity rates will rise as planned in October by an average of 8.49 percent, rejecting a proposal by opposition lawmakers to postpone the price hike.
Instead of affecting everyone in Taiwan, gradual electricity price increases are set to hit heavy users, particularly in industry, the hardest in a bid to balance longtime losses incurred by state-run power company Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower).
Without the price hike, all taxpayers will be responsible for making up the difference, which Chang called “a very unreasonable phenomenon,” and therefore, the hike must to proceed.
The October hikes will be levied on households using over 500 kilowatt-hours of electricity each month and businesses using over 1,500 kWh a month. The government estimates that 85.7 percent of households and 80.2 percent of small businesses would be unaffected.
Taipower's losses are due mostly to the sharp rise in the cost of fuel in recent years, Chang said, though he added that there is room for improvement in how the company is run as well.