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June 23, 2017

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Pact talks postponed, not suspended: MAC

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said yesterday during an interpellation session at the Legislative Yuan that the negotiation process with mainland China regarding the Cross-Strait Trade in Goods Agreement has been postponed but not suspended.

The United Daily News yesterday published a report claiming that China's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) spokesman Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光) confirmed that the trade pact's negotiations — which were slated to be convened at the end of April — were called off.

In response to the media report, Wang said that communication with mainland China over the issue is still ongoing; however, since both sides are not sufficiently prepared for the scheduled meetings, the negotiations of the agreement will be rescheduled.

Economics Minister Chang Chia-juch (張家祝) also commented on the issue, saying that it is common to postpone such meetings by two weeks or a month.

Kuomintang lawmaker Lai shyh-bao (賴士葆) asked Chang if the change in circumstances was a result of the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement's current situation in Taiwan.

In response, Chang said this is the first time for Beijing to reschedule the meeting, noting that he cannot properly interpret the incident since China did not bring up the service trade pact issue.

Chang further added that the situation would be special if Beijing keeps rearranging the negotiation dates.

Wang on Soong's Remarks

During his recent visit to Beijing, People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) commented on the student-led demonstrations in Taiwan. Soong said most of the protesters who participated in the Sunflower Movement in March were against "black-box" operations by the Ma administration. They were neither anti-China nor anti-free trade, he said.

Wang yesterday responded to Soong's remarks at the Legislative Yuan, saying that it is not fair to describe the executive branch's efforts on the service trade pact as a backroom deal.

Wang further argued that the accusation of "black-box" operations has become an adverse political campaign, adding that it has levied a huge stress on the executive branch.

The minister explained that the service trade pact is a "package" agreement, noting that any revision to the articles could subsequently lead to the ineffectiveness of the agreement.

Wang said if lawmakers have concerns over the service industry sub-sectors covered in the agreement, they can demand the executive branch to handle it through "other means" after the agreement has been approved by the Legislature.

The MAC yesterday held a press conference, reiterating that if lawmakers amend the articles of the service trade pact, then it means the Legislative Yuan disapproves of the pact. The ministry further said that based on its assessment, it is unlikely Taiwan would be able to restart negotiations over the trade pact with Beijing.

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