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Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement: Impasse Ends on TRA Anniversary Date

2:31 PM, Apr 9, 2014 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
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Since the TiSA was signed in June 2013, the government in Taipei has sought to address the protesters’ concerns, including any potential adverse impact on Taiwan’s economy or the potential for greater interference by mainland China in Taiwan’s affairs, through 20 public hearings held in the Legislative Yuan and 110 forums with affected industries and business leaders, conducted by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Mainland Affairs Council. These procedures were reportedly transparent and comprehensive. Far from being an “unequal treaty” as some have asserted, the TiSA has been designed to enhance Taiwan’s trade competitiveness and to further the goal of facilitating Taiwan’s regional economic integration in such multilateral organizations as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

The occupying students expressed concern over the legislative review process of the TiSA. They have won a commitment from the majority (KMT) party for a legislative review and vote on the TiSA article by article. The student leaders then sensibly concluded it was time for them to declare victory and go home. Some irreconcilable elements are reportedly contending that the TiSA must be rejected in its entirety even if this appears to contradict the will of the public at large. But the student leadership has apparently heeded the view of Winston Churchill that “democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried.” And the 35th anniversary of the passage of the TRA seems an appropriate date to put rule of law in Taiwan back on track.

Dennis P. Halpin is a visiting scholar at the U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS and a former Asian affairs advisor to the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

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