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May 29, 2017

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Think tanks advocate swift approval of pact on cross-strait services

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Four of Taiwan's major think tanks yesterday called on the Legislature to quickly ratify the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement (CTSA), which they said is crucial to Taiwan's economic development.

The heads and senior researchers of the think tanks made the calls during a forum on the challenges and opportunities arising from the CTSA.

The think tanks are the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research (CIER), Taiwan Institute of Economic Research (TIER), Taiwan Research Institute (TRI) and Taiwan Academy of Banking and Finance (TABF).

Meanwhile, lawmakers continued bickering for a third day over the CTSA without showing any sign that the agreement could be ratified anytime soon. They had already wasted two full days — Wednesday and Thursday — engaging in quarrels and brawls.

Wu Chung-shu, head of the CIER, said Taiwan must accept the political reality if it wants to join regional economic blocs. He maintained that political pressure from China will be a crucial factor when other countries consider the pros and cons of holding economic talks with Taiwan.

Wu said the CTSA marks an important step toward the normalization of cross-strait trade.

If the agreement fails to obtain approval by the lawmakers, Wu said, members of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will be reluctant to accept Taiwan.

The CTSA is a strategic stepping stone to Taiwan' economic talks with ASEAN and other countries, he said.

He said it is inevitable for Taiwan to open up its markets. He noted that China and South Korea may sign a free trade agreement (FTA) at the end of this year, which will come as a heavy blow to Taiwan businesses.

Lee Chung, a director from CIER, said the CTSA will benefit all those Taiwan businesses that have already been operating in China. In particular, those small- to medium-sized Taiwan businesses will be protected from competitors illegally copying their products.

Cheng Chen-mao, deputy head of the TRI, said the future growth driver for Taiwan's economy will be the service sectors rather than the manufacturing sectors.

As the financial sector is subject to strict controls, banks and other players looking to expand overseas must rely on agreements reached between governments.

Taipei and Beijing signed the CTSA last year, but it has yet to be ratified by the Legislature due to strong opposition from the Democratic Progressive Party.

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng yesterday failed to broker an agreement between the DPP lawmakers and their Kuomintang counterparts to accelerate the ratification process.

Wang made the attempt following two days of quarrels and brawls between the two opposing sides over the CTSA.

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