TAIPEI - President Ma Ying-jeou reiterated yesterday that he is willing to speak to students protesting against the controversial Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement without preconditions, welcoming them to send representatives to the Presidential Office. The president made the comments during a meeting with more than 40 representatives of industry groups, including Chinese National Federation of Industries Chairman Rock Hsu, General Chamber of Commerce of the Republic of China Chairman Lai Chang-yi and others.
Hsu expressed concern over the situation, but added that he is happy to see the president's willingness to speak with students.
Under present circumstances, people should be more kind, but supporters and detractors of the service trade pact have been blaming one another, Hsu said, adding, for example, that the Kuomintang has been blaming the Democratic Progressive Party and vice versa, whereas student activists have been blaming the government, while the executive branch has been blaming the Legislature, all of whom believe that their detractors are the cause of all the trouble.
Hsu called on government officials, lawmakers and student activists to become problem solvers.
Meanwhile, Lai urged Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng and the parents of students to help facilitate communication, adding that he is considering bringing the heads of 60 unions to the Legislature in order to talk to the student activists.
Ma Reiterates Benefits of Pact
The president said that should Taiwan face harm as a result of the service trade pact, Article 8 of that agreement allows for emergency negotiations, whereas Article 11 allows the government to respond to situations that have given rise to national security concerns.
Ma added that Article 23 also allows both parties to revise the content of the agreement.
In addition to Articles 8 and 11 of that agreement, the government has decided to set aside NT$98.2 billion over the next decade in order to lessen any possible impact that the pact may have on Taiwan, the president said.
Mainland China has agreed to open up 80 subsectors to Taiwan, whereas Taiwan has agreed to open up 64 subsectors to mainland China, Ma said.
Among the 64 subsectors, 27 had already been opened up before, Ma said, adding that they were simply re-listed in the agreement.
So far, 495 mainland Chinese businesses have invested in the service and manufacturing industries of Taiwan, the president said.
These firms did not bring blue-collar workers over to Taiwan from mainland China, the president said, adding that they brought over executives and specialists, totaling 264, while creating 9,624 job opportunities for locals.
"We have already given a positive response to student activists' demand (for an article-by-article review)," Ma said, stressing that the government is willing to see an article-by-article and vote on the pact.
In response to the mass protest in front of the Presidential Office on Sunday, Ma said that whether it was the 500,000 claimed by organizers or the 116,000 estimated by police, the size of the demonstration was undeniably large.
"I listened to their demands very carefully," Ma said.
After responding to their earliest request for an article-by-article review, student activists proposed four additional requests, the president said, adding that he had responded to all four on the day before the mass protest.