President Ma’s Willful Misrepresentation of Facts Regarding Service Trade Agreement Controversy

In an interview with the U.S.-based Forbes magazine, President Ma engaged in willful mischaracterization of the truth with his claims that the negotiation, signing, and review process of the controversial Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA) were “transparent,” and that the March student protest movement was caused by the DPP’s obstruction of the legislative agenda. 

1. President Ma says in the interview that before concluding the cross-strait agreement, his administration communicated with 46 different industries and consulted with 264 private sector stakeholders, therefore the process was not a “black box”.  However, as of 2013, Taiwan’s service sector made up 70% of our GDP, encompassing over 1,000 different industries and 6 million employees.  The signing of the cross-strait economic agreements has a potentially grave impact on countless citizens and industries.  President Ma’s assertion is a reckless misrepresentation of the facts, demonstrating his administration’s complete disregard for the interests and future development of our national industries.

2. CSSTA caused massive controversy in our society because the negotiations and the signing process were opaque and non-transparent.  The Ma administration not only did not engage in sufficient communication with the potentially impacted industries ahead of time, but even the impact assessment report that holds the key to the agreement’s success or failure was produced after the backroom agreement had already been signed, and then only under the pressure of public opinion and civil society groups.  The report was hastily and sloppily prepared by a contracted agency.  In the subsequent 20 “public hearings” that President Ma called “open and transparent”, the administration did not budge from its position that not even one word of the agreement could be changed, in spite of the barrage of doubts and skepticism expressed by the representatives of various industries in the hearings.  Given the government’s refusal to submit to public oversight, the resulting backlash is not at all surprising.

3. The party caucuses reached an agreement on June 25, 2013, stipulating that the CSSTA should be reviewed clause-by-clause in the Legislative Yuan (LY).  But before the pact was reviewed, in a session of the Internal Administrative Committee on March 17, the KMT declared that as the 90-day review period had expired, the pact should be considered as reviewed.  The KMT attempted to force through the pact directly to a vote.  It was this kind of deal-breaking, democracy-reversing behavior that fundamentally triggered the students’ LY occupation and the public uproar in March.  In the Forbes interview, Ma’s claim that “this [30 seconds review by KMT legislator Chang Ching-chung] was interpreted by some as a move to pass the agreement.  In fact, it had not been passed and had not even left the Legislative Yuan,” and that the student movement was a “misunderstanding” are willful mischaracterization.

4. The DPP condemns President Ma’s purposeful distortions of the facts to the international media, his refusal to communicate with the people, and his persistent provoking of partisan confrontation and social conflict.