TAIPEI, March 23 -- Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou on Sunday defended the cross-Strait service trade pact.
Ma made the remarks at a press conference as hundreds of college students continued to occupy the legislative chamber in Taipei. They are protesting about what they see as undemocratic tactics used by the KMT to ratify the pact and are worried about the effect on the local economy.
As Taiwan's economy relies heavily on foreign trade, the island is in urgent need of more free trade agreements, Ma said. Failure to pass the service pact would damage the island's credentials, hurt cross-Strait relations, and erode liberalization efforts.
The pact will open up the mainland's service sector to Taiwan, helping medium and small businesses, while mainland investment will create more jobs.
Taiwan has not been under any pressure from the mainland regarding the pact, Ma said.
Signed in June last year, the service trade pact became a target of protest on Monday when the KMT announced plans to bypass a committee review and send it directly to the legislative session.
KMT Chairman Ma said the party was forced to take the step after the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) persistently blocked the committee review. There could still be substantial review at the legislative session.
Ma urged students to leave the chamber and allow legislative operations to resume. He declined to talk with the students, saying their preconditions for talks with administrative chief Jiang Yi-huah on Saturday made such dialogue "meaningless."