Beijing stands firm on service agreement



BEIJING — Beijing reiterated its insistence yesterday that a service trade agreement with Taiwan be kept intact and implemented as is amid widespread opposition to the pact in Taiwan and suggestions that parts of it be renegotiated.

“There is no precedent of signed agreements between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait being renegotiated,” said Fan Liqing, a spokeswoman of the Taiwan Affairs Office of China’s State Council.

The authority of the agreement signed by Taiwan’s Strait Exchange Foundation (SEF) and China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), the bodies authorized to conduct cross strait negotiations, should be safeguarded, she said.

Fan was responding to questions about a suggestion made by Wang Yu-chi, the head of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, that the Legislature first clear the services pact and then have the two sides use the urgent consultation system contained in the pact to hold consultations on its more controversial parts.

Asked about a proposal by ruling Kuomintang lawmakers to put the controversial agreement to a referendum, Fan said, “I want to remind you that the pact has already been signed. It’s an agreement signed by the two bodies after receiving authorization.”

On the just-concluded student movement that opposed the pact, she said people on the two sides of the strait do not want to see the peaceful development of cross-strait relations “be interfered with and destroyed.”

She said China would like to listen to the views of different segments of Taiwan’s population on cross-strait exchanges and cooperation and allow more Taiwanese people to benefit from the peaceful development of relations.

She expressed the hope that the follow-up talks of the ECFA, including a merchandise trade pact, a dispute settlement mechanism, and the exchange of representative offices between the SEF and ARATS, will not be affected by the trade-in-services pact, which was signed in June 2013, but remains stalled in Taiwan’s legislature.

It also sparked an unprecedented occupation of the Legislature by student protesters that began on March 18 after a Kuomintang legislator tried to bypass a joint committee review a day earlier and send the agreement directly to a vote by the full Legislature.

The students only ended their 24-day occupation after Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng agreed to one of their key demands to pass a law on overseeing cross-strait agreements before reviewing the services pact.

Fan said pro-Taiwan independence forces have attempted to incorporate “state-to state” and “one country on each side of the Taiwan Strait” concepts into the oversight bill “to disrupt the peaceful development of cross-trait ties,” and reiterated China’s opposition to Taiwan independence.

She said that since 2008 when the SEF and ARATS resumed consultations, they have reached 21 agreements and several consensuses and “brought substantive benefits” to both sides.

On President Ma Ying-jeou’s recent remarks that Taiwan would not rule out the possibility of addressing cross-strait political issues, Fan said that China is willing to consult with Taiwan on long-existing political differences on an equal footing and make “reasonable arrangements” under the “one China” framework.

Ma said in a videoconference with a U.S. think tank on April 9 that “as long as we have the support of the people, we will not rule out the possibility of talking about (cross-strait) political issues.”