Be Responsible to History: Approve the Trade in Services Agreement
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
March 12, 2014
Summary: Were there inadequate communications regarding the trade in services agreement beforehand? Will the agreement cause shocks to certain industries? The fact remains Taiwan cannot afford to retreat into itself. Time is not on our side. Everyone in the ruling party, including President Ma, Chiang Yi-hua, Wang Jin-pyng, as well as legislators from both parties, must answer to history. Let the trade in services agreement go into effect, asap.
Full text below:
Sixteeen public hearings have been held. The cross-strait trade in services agreement has finally entered the legislative review stage. The ruling and opposition parties in the legislature remain poles apart. Although numerous public hearings have been held, the participants remain at loggerheads. Each side has its own arguments, and little agreement is possible.
During today's review, the two camps will probably remain at loggerheads. They may even engage in physical confrontations. Scuffles would be no surprise. If the legislature becomes the arena for such a democratic farce, the result will be a huge embarrassment. The public will feel regret. Lawmakers are elected to office through the democratic process. Yet they forsake rational debate. They forsake communication and consultation. They forsake parliamentary democracy. Instead they resort to violence and bullying. In the end, neither the government nor the opposition will win. The public and the nation howeer will lose.
The review of the trade in services agreement has led to six months of ruling vs. opposition party confrontations. Remaining cool has been difficult. There is little room for rationality. Consider the controversy that has surrounded the agreement. The review has provoked intense controversy. Outside circumstances have changed dramatically. Much must be clarified to avoid a complete loss.
First, the trade in services agreement has provoked numerous controversies. The most urgent controversy concerns the nature of the trade in services agreement. Is the agreement a law? If it is, the legislature has constitutional authority. It should review the issues one by one. Is the agreement an executive order which the Executive Yuan merely copied the Legislative Yuan for reference? If it is, then according to the Legislative Yuan Exercise of Powers Law legislators may review the agreement. But they must do so within six months. Is the trade in services agreement a treaty? If it is, then the contents of the agreement may be reviewed one at a time. But the agreement must be approved or rejected, in toto. The text of the agreement cannot be changed.
The trade in services agreement is not a law drafted by the Mainland Affairs Council. Nor of course, is it an executive order, issued by the MAC. Rather, it is an agreement signed with the government on the other side. Therefore it must be classified as a treaty. The legislature claims that the agreement has a significant impact, therefore the text of the agreement must be reviewed. But the legislature may not modify the agreement unilaterally. Consider the most famous case in the international arena. When World War I ended in 1918, a peace conference was convened in Paris. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson attended the conference. He adopted the draft Treaty of Versailles. But the Congress of the United States failed to approve it. Therefore the United States did not sign it and did not join the League of Nations.
The Legislative Yuan is reviewing the trade in services agreement. If it makes additions or deletions, it will be in violation of international treaty conventions. Also, the Legislative Yuan Cross-Strait Relations Ordinance contains clear stipulations regarding agreements signed between the two sides. If the contents need not be amended by legal custom, they may be approved by the Executive Yuan. They may then inform the Legislative Yuan, merely for the record. For future reference, the Legislative Yuan has already exceeded the six month time limit for review of the trade in services agreement. No wonder some argue that the trade in services agreement is already in force. The legislature is in violation of the law when it begins reviewing the agreement today. The results of its review should also be considered invalid.
Consider the matter cooly. The legislature has only now begun reviewing the trade in services agreement. It boasts that it has the right to decide whether the agreement lives or dies. This is in violation of international conventions. It is also legally dubious. The trade in services agreement has generated much controversy. Leave aside the partisan confrontation and opportunistic hype. The failure of the administration to communicate in advance with the legislative branch was a major mistake. Many more cross-strait agreements need to be promoted. Let this be a learning experience. Let this become a guide for the future. We hope the executive branch has learned its lesson. It must win the support of the legislative branch during negotiations. It must not clash with the other side during negotiations, only to be second guessed from within. The trade in services agreement must go into effect without further ado. If necessary, the Executive Yuan must have the guts to ram it through. It must declare that the trade in services agreement is already in force, in accordance with the law.
The external situation remains changeable. We dare not delay. Early last year the trade in services draft agreement was initialed. Taiwan was the envy of others who wanted to enter the Mainland market, especially the Republic of Korea. To avoid falling behind, Korea accelerated negotiations over the Mainland China-Korea Free Trade Agreement. It expects to sign trade in services, trade in goods, and investment cooperation agreements this year. If Taiwan is still bickering by then, it it will find itself at a disadvantage relative to South Korea in the Mainland market. This confirms what Minister of Economic Affairs Chang Chia-chu said about Taiwan. It will not longer even rate.
Were there inadequate communications regarding the trade in services agreement beforehand? Will the agreement cause shocks to certain industries? The fact remains Taiwan cannot afford to retreat into itself. Time is not on our side. Everyone in the ruling party, including President Ma, Chiang Yi-hua, Wang Jin-pyng, as well as legislators from both parties, must answer to history. Let the trade in services agreement go into effect, asap.
中國時報 編輯部 2014年03月12日 04:10