Cross-strait over­sight bill calls for long-term plan­ning

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

One year af­ter the stu­dent-led Sun­flower Move­ment asked for a cross-strait agree­ment su­per­vi­sory bill, all ver­sions of the bill re­main un­re­viewed and stalled in the Leg­isla­tive Yuan.

Both ma­jor party cau­cuses pre­dict that ap­prov­ing any ver­sion in the cur­rent cli­mate is highly un­likely. With elec­tion day a year away, un­cer­tainty hangs over law­mak­ers, who are aware of how hot a potato the mon­i­tor­ing bill could be­come.

For law­mak­ers, a key con­cern is that the bills grant pol­i­cy­form­ing author­ity to dif­fer­ent bod­ies — namely the Leg­isla­tive Yuan or the Ex­ec­u­tive Yuan — and that con­stituents may not be ready to de­cide which to em­power un­til they know which party con­trols what af­ter elec­tion day.

In­stead of this ap­proach, what the draft­ing of a bill should be about is es­tab­lish­ing a use­able mech­a­nism for han­dling agree­ments in the cross-strait re­la­tion­ship over the long term.

As of to­day, there are nine ver­sions of the bill. There is a draft au­thored by the Ex­ec­u­tive Yuan, by the Demo­cratic Pro­gres­sive Party (DPP), the Tai­wan Sol­i­dar­ity Union, in­di­vid­ual law­mak­ers and, no­tably, DPP Leg­is­la­tor Yu Mei-nu ( ), who has en­dorsed a bill pre­sented by the Sun­flower Move­ment.

The Cabi­net’s over­sight bill lets the Ex­ec­u­tive Yuan take the lead in pact for­ma­tion, though the Leg­isla­tive Yuan has the right of fi­nal de­ci­sion. The Ex­ec­u­tive Yuan is re­quired to re­port on the ne­go­ti­a­tion process to the Leg­isla­tive Yuan at four stages. This is a process of re­port­ing, not col­lab­o­ra­tion.

Later, any ne­go­ti­ated pact needs to be ap­proved by the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, which con­sid­ers its im­pact on in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions, cross-strait re­la­tions, na­tional se­cu­rity, em­ploy­ment and in­dus­tries. This na­tional se­cu­rity re­view panel, which in­cludes in­dus­try rep­re­sen­ta­tives, can veto the pact.

So can the Leg­isla­tive Yuan. If the pact re­quires legal re­vi­sions, it is sent to the Leg­isla­tive Yuan “for re­view” ( ) and must be ap­proved by vote. If no legal amend­ments are re­quired, it is sub­mit­ted “for ref­er­ence” ( ) and is read aloud but not voted on. How­ever, law­mak­ers can — by vote — choose to con­vert the case into a voted re­view. In short, law­mak­ers can sus­pend a cross-strait pact or re­ject it al­to­gether, though they have a limited role in the ne­go­ti­a­tion process.

In con­trast, the Yu Mei-nu bill strength­ens and ac­ti­vates the Leg­isla­tive Yuan dur­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tion of the pact:

The Leg­is­la­ture would have the power to set goals and terms, to de­bate and form ne­go­ti­a­tion strate­gies and to re­open talks to al­ter terms af­ter the pact is signed.

Th­ese are strong brakes on the process, but in prac­tice they will cre­ate sig­nif­i­cant prob­lems. The re­al­ity of in­ter­na­tional ne­go­ti­a­tions is that pub­licly de­bat­ing and re­veal­ing the bot­tom line while talks are un­der­way will harm the na­tional in­ter­est. More­over, al­ter­ing terms af­ter a deal is signed means the deal is off and all sig­na­to­ries must re­turn to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble.

Among sup­port­ers of the other mon­i­tor­ing bills, the Cabi­net bill arouses strong skep­ti­cism that is a re­flec­tion of skep­ti­cism to­ward the Kuom­intang, but a more pro­duc­tive ex­am­i­na­tion of the bill looks at its brak­ing mech­a­nisms with­out ac­count­ing for which party leads the Ex­ec­u­tive Yuan.

Viewed in this light, the Cabi­net bill strikes a roughly ap­pro­pri­ate bal­ance of power. Its mon­i­tor­ing con­trols for the Leg­is­la­ture are con­crete — not the most ro­bust among the nine bills but suf­fi­cient — and can be used reg­u­larly with­out gen­er­at­ing in­for­ma­tion leaks or other harm to na­tional in­ter­ests while the Ex­ec­u­tive Yuan leads the ne­go­ti­a­tion process.

In the end, choos­ing a bill can be greatly sim­pli­fied if law­mak­ers aim to cre­ate su­per­vi­sion that works over the long term, as par­ties rise and fall from power.

If the mon­i­tor­ing bills come to noth­ing, as seems likely, ev­ery­one will lose. Tai­wan needs a mon­i­tor­ing frame­work, if not to han­dle the con­tro­ver­sial trade-in-ser­vices agree­ment then to deal with other ne­go­ti­a­tions that will in­evitably come to bear on the cross-strait re­la­tion­ship.

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