William Pesek’s article, “Taiwan’s Ma must learn lessons on democracy” (Business Report, April 4) can be misleading without understanding facts or clarification.
First, the article wrongly stated that “Ma seems to have forgotten that’s he’s running a democracy, not a Communist Party precinct” and that “Taiwanese president attempted to enact a trade pact with China in the dark of night”.
Before the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement was signed on June 21, 2013, Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs, Mainland Affairs Council and related agencies organised over 110 forums with representatives from 46 service industries. It has briefed the Legislative Yuan three times with legislators across party lines attending. After signing and in response to concerns from different sectors, 144 meetings have been held to explain the agreement with more than 7 900 people attending. The Legislative Yuan also held 20 public hearings, inviting services industry representatives, scholars and experts to attend. This is unprecedented in the country’s legislative history. The strict process of an item-by-item review and vote further underscores its transparency. Nothing has been done in the dark of night.
Second, Pesek indicated that “Ma should shelve the China deal for now”. The services agreement is part of the Cross-Straits Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), a bilateral trade pact concluded in accordance with the principles of the World Trade Organisation. If the agreement is not passed, it will damage Taiwan’s credibility in the international community, hamper efforts to liberalise trade, and affect its chances of joining regional trade blocs such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. This would harm Taiwan’s economic future.
Third, the author implies Taiwan should slow its pace of economic integration with China. But if you take a look at the significant points, including maintaining Taiwan’s credibility in the international community, preventing losing the advantage of early entry to the mainland Chinese market for Taiwan’s service industries, as well as access to regional economic integration mechanisms and aiming future talks with mainland China under the ECFA on a trade in goods agreement and dispute settlement mechanism, Taiwan will benefit from getting the services trade deal passed and put it into force.
The key to the resolution of the controversy over the Trade in Services Agreement is the prompt reinstatement of legislative operations and guarantee of constitutional order. In a democratic country, different opinions on public affairs should be discussed and settled though due process. Taiwan’s government will maintain a humble attitude and pay heed to all different voices, because a national consensus is the bedrock that will allow the government to move forward.
Information Officer, Taipei Liaison Office in South Africa