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Ma expresses regret at stalling of pact review

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- President Ma Ying-jeou yesterday reiterated the importance of the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement, pointing out that lawmakers have so far been unable to conduct an article-by-article review of the pact.

The president added that 20 public hearings on the cross-strait agreement were held at the Legislative Yuan, rejecting claims that the pact was a backroom deal.

The service industry accounts for nearly 70 percent of Taiwan's GDP, but service exports have stood at a very low number, the president said. “This is why we attach a lot of importance to the service trade pact.”

The pact will help increase Taiwan exports, the president, adding that according to the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research, once the agreement takes effect, service exports to mainland China will increase 37 percent.

While developing cross-strait relations, the administration has also been developing relations with countries all over the world, the president said. “We haven't been putting all our eggs in one basket.”

The president explained that by improving cross-strait ties, other countries will be more willing to improve their relations with Taiwan.

When Taiwan signed the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement with mainland China, Singapore, Japan and the U.S. all reacted positively, the president said. “There really is no need to see (mainland China) as a poisonous beast.”

The president pointed out that it has been almost a year since the agreement was signed and there has been little progress.

It took a year and a half to sign the pact, and after it was signed, units commissioned by the Ministry of Economic Affairs reached out to members of 46 different types of companies within the service industry and 264 unions, conducting a total of 110 talks while 20 public hearings were held at the Legislative Yuan.

The president said that the process took more than four months.

Never has there been a case in which 20 public hearings were held on any bill at the Legislature, the president said, adding that regardless of one's preferences, one cannot describe the cross-strait pact as being opaque, especially since lawmakers across party lines are slated to hold an article-by-article review and vote on the pact some time in the future.

The problem is not transparency; the problem is the fact that every time a meeting is held on the agreement, the rostrum gets seized by the opposition, resulting in parliamentary paralysis, the president said.

If lawmakers seize the rostrum every time a meeting is held or every time they have a disagreement, how can one call that being democratic, rational or respecting the rule of law, the president asked rhetorically.

There has been a misconception that the pact cannot be revised, the president said, adding that this isn't the case.

Of course a motion for revision can be proposed, but what one needs to realize is that if alterations are made, the pact cannot take effect, the president explained.

The president added that the agreement contains clauses that allow the signatories to alter the pact after it has taken effect should there be any cause for concern.

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