Taiwan leader says protest-hit China trade pact vital

TAIPEI Sun Mar 23, 2014 6:56am EDT

1 of 4. Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou speaks during a news conference about protesters' occupation of Taiwan's legislature, at the Presidential Office in Taipei March 23, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Minshen Lin

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TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou said on Sunday that the island needed to pass a contentious trade pact with China for the sake of its economy, and called on protesters who have occupied parliament in protest to respect democracy and leave.

Parliamentary approval of the pact would pave the way for greater economic integration between the two former geopolitical foes, by opening 80 of China's service sectors to Taiwan and 64 Taiwan sectors to China.

But the demonstrators who have taken over parliament and massed in the surrounding streets for the past five days fear the deal could further swell Beijing's economic influence over their proudly democratic island.

Speaking to reporters in Taipei, Ma said that Taiwan would suffer economically if it did not sign the agreement with its biggest export destination, China.

"I tell you once again, with a responsible attitude, that this is completely for the sake of Taiwan's economic future," said Ma, under whose rule since 2008 Taiwan has signed a series of landmark trade and economic agreements with China.

Ma and his ruling Kuomintang Party have promoted the pact, which faces a final review in parliament on April 8, as necessary to maintain Taiwan's competitiveness and status as an export powerhouse.

They have called it a precondition for Taiwan to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a wide-ranging trade deal among 12 countries, spearheaded by the United States.

Ma said he understood the passion of the mostly young protesters, as "the country can only have a future if the youth care about the country and are brave enough to participate".

But he added that with their "illegal" occupation of parliament they were affecting the work of the government, and should withdraw.

"Are we not proud of Taiwan's democracy and rule of law?" Ma said. "If there is no rule of law, democracy cannot be protected -- this is the government's unswerving basic position."

Taiwan is a former dictatorship that made a peaceful transition to democracy in the late 1980s, and now boasts one of Asia's most freewheeling democracies. Fights in parliament are common and protests are almost a daily occurrence.

The main opposition Democratic Progressive Party has said it fears the pact will hurt small service companies and damage Taiwan's economy. But it lacks the numbers to block the bill's final passage.

Taiwan and China have been ruled separately since the Communists took power on the mainland in 1949, though relations have warmed considerably since the China-friendly Ma won the presidency in 2008 and secured re-election in 2012.

China still regards Taiwan as a renegade province, to be regained by force if necessary, and many in Taiwan are wary of the warming ties Ma's administration promotes.

(Reporting by Reuters Television; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry)

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Comments (5)
nwnovaklhs wrote:
Wait a minute. Where in this article is the real reason for the protests–namely, that the KMT rammed this through the legislature without doing what it promised? That is, it promised to carry out a clause-by-clause review of the agreement, but then did not? It went through party, not governmental, state, or constitutional mechanisms, to ram this through in a completely undemocratic manner. This is a return to the party-state system that existed under Martial Law and is inching–nay, galloping–toward the PRC model of party-state dictatorial measures. Why don’t y’all do a little bit of investigation instead of (evidently) writing off KMT and DPP sites. Seriously, this thing has blown up without DPP backing. The DPP was not leading this; they were caught off guard by it and were still on Wednesday of last week trying to figure out what to do about it. Mentioning the DPP as though they are somehow behind it or their concerns spawned this is utterly disingenuous. Either you missed the day they taught journalism in journalism class or Reuters has become another CNN.

You can find my take on this here: http://eastasiaobserver.wordpress.com/2014/03/22/sic-semper-tyrannis-fear-or-loathing-in-taiwan/


Mar 23, 2014 8:07am EDT  --  Report as abuse
allyschild wrote:
Many thanks to Reuters for covering the unfolding protests in Taiwan. However, the reporter’s brief summary of Taiwan’s history vis-a-vis China is highly misleading: ‘Taiwan and China have been ruled separately since the Communists took power on the mainland in 1949, though relations have warmed considerably since the China-friendly Ma won the presidency in 2008 and secured re-election in 2012.’

In fact, Taiwan and China have been ruled separately for most of the last four hundred years. Prior to that it was a free island without dynastic or state governance. Parts of Taiwan were colonized by the Dutch, Spanish, and French in 17th century. Supporters of the Ming and Qing dynasties fought each other, the aboriginal inhabitants, and Europeans for control over portions of the island. For more than fifty years, from the end of the nineteenth century to the end of World War II, Taiwan was a Japanese colony. The idea that the post-1949 era is an aberration in history (with Taiwan ‘breaking away’ from an inviolate, unchanging entity known as ‘China’), instead of another period of continued evolution in the island’s status, is to buy into a myth, one that is in the Chinese government’s interest to promote.

The term ‘reunification’ is inaccurate and hides a political agenda that the mainstream media too often repeats unthinkingly. The People’s Republic of China has never exercised rule over Taiwan. You can’t join back together what was never one to begin with. We ought to be speaking of attempted annexation instead.

Mar 23, 2014 9:51am EDT  --  Report as abuse
alienAdi wrote:
This is not just a trade pact, it gives China greater economic leverage on the island to achieve the eventual unification. This agreement consists 4 chapters and 24 articles, all aiming to widen the scope of influence of China over Taiwan, including printing, telecommunication, land transport of courier services, social services, sales and marketing of air transport services and securities services.

The agreement, of course, will benefit a few businesses, but will leave Taiwan completely vulnerable to political pressure from China.

The protest is against the lack of transparency for such a massive agreement and Taiwanese government’s “illegal” attempt of executing the agreement without due process, damaging Taiwan’s sovereignty and democracy.

Mar 23, 2014 10:41am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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