Towards the end of second week into the occupation of Taiwan’s parliament by students and other protesters, there is still no sign of resolution. The protesters oppose the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA, also dubbed the Trade in Services Agreement – TiSA) and the way its negotiation and subsequent legislative review were handled by the government. They demand sending the treaty back to the Executive Yuan where it will be halted until the Legislative Yuan creates a monitoring mechanism that would provide a legal framework for dealing with future cross-Strait negotiations.
In addition, protesters are demanding that the CSSTA still be reviewed clause by clause. They also seek to hold a citizens’ constitutional assembly that would prepare constitutional reform, of which one of the intended goals is to clarify the balance of powers between the executive and legislative branches. The last response from President Ma was of mild agreement to demands for a clause-by-clause review, passing a monitoring mechanism and the option of holding civic constitutional meetings, but the key demand of returning the CSSTA to the executive branch was flatly rejected.
In a meantime, opposition to CSSTA has become known as the Sunflower Movement after flowers that were given to the student protesters by florists. Events so far culminated on March 30 when between 350,000 and 500,000 people gathered to support the Sunflower Movement in the area surrounding Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Palace.
One of the central points pushed forward by the government is that reneging on the treaty would harm Taiwan’s international reputation and delay Taiwan’s entry into regional free trade arrangements. Background on the issue prepared by Taiwan’s foreign ministry reads (emphasis added):
“If the TiSA cannot be passed and thus come into force, the three major repercussions will be: Taiwan’s service industries will lose the advantage of early entry to the mainland Chinese market; Taiwan’s accession to regional economic integration mechanisms—including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)—will be delayed; and future talks with mainland China under the Cross-Straits Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) on a trade in goods agreement and dispute settlement mechanism will be influenced, which will jeopardize the development of Taiwan’s external trade. (cont.)
This article, published in The Diplomat on April 1, continues here.