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June 26, 2017

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Labor, businesses laud service trade pact

TAIPEI -- Labor and business groups voiced support yesterday for a trade-in-services agreement between Taiwan and China, with some saying they planned to reach out to the protesters currently occupying the Legislative Yuan.

Tsai Hung-chun, chairman of Taipei Municipal Federation of Labor, said it is not true that Taiwanese labor groups are opposed to the trade agreement, since it would not open Taiwan to Chinese workers.

Wang Yu-wen, chairman of the Taipei Rapid Transit Corp. labor union, who was also at the news conference, further said the groups opposing the accord have painted a negative picture of the agreement.

He said the occupation of the Legislative Yuan's main chamber during the past two weeks by student-led protesters against the agreement has brought Taiwan's parliament to a halt and is weakening the country's competitiveness.

Wang also announced that a counter demonstration will be held Tuesday afternoon, with supporters of the accord heading to the Legislative Yuan to try to hold dialogue with the protesters who have been occupying the main chamber since March 18.

The plan was announced in the wake of a mass demonstration in front of the Presidential Office on Sunday, at which the protesters called for the withdrawal of the trade agreement and legislation to scrutinize the signing of accords across the Taiwan Strait.

The organizers estimated the number of protesters Sunday at half a million, while the police put the figure at around 116,000.

Meanwhile, Lai Cheng-yi, head of the General Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan, urged Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng and the parents of the demonstrators in the Legislature to get involved to help end the standoff soon.

Lai, who led several business leaders in a meeting with President Ma Ying-jeou on Monday, said he is considering gathering the heads of 60 industry associations to talk with the student protesters in the Legislature if necessary.

Industry associations in the financial and textile sectors took out half-page ads in the local newspapers Monday, expressing support for the passage of the trade pact that was signed last June between Taiwan and China.

In the ads, the associations warned about the risk of Taiwan being marginalized if the agreement is not ratified by lawmakers, saying it may affect Taiwan's efforts to join regional trade blocs, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Chiang Wei-ling and the presidents of national universities said Monday during a meeting of the legislative Education and Culture Committee that the students' occupation of the Legislature is inappropriate.

Chiang and National Taiwan University President Yang Pan-chyr both suggested that the students resort to more rational and legal means of expressing their concerns on public affairs.

National Chung Hsing University President Lee Der-tsai said that in light of the lack of trust between the two sides, the government and student protesters should hold private dialogue before making public comments.

Another suggestion, put forward by National Dong Hua University President Wu Maw-kuen, was for the two sides to first consider choosing public figures they both trust to help establish a communication channel.

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