(Luis Ko is the CEO of I-Mei Foods)
As everybody expected before his inauguration, U.S. President Donald Trump is running the U.S. like a company, as exemplified by what he did in the first week of his administration, and that kind of “drain the swamp” attitude, iron will, decisiveness and swiftness to carry out his policies in face of tremendous opposition is exactly what Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen's administration needs to carry out reforms that the country desperately needs in order to survive and develop.
President Trump is without doubt a successful business CEO and similar to all business founders throughout the world, he has an iron will, is very hardworking and pragmatic, hates traditional red tape and detests bureaucracy. He is a person who will enforce his beliefs in the face of strong opposition from a large number of dissenters, who is anti-traditional and anti-bureaucratic, and who has been persecuted by unfair laws and regulations during the process of growing his small and medium-sized enterprise into a large corporation.
In light of the rise of such a leader of the world’s superpower, can Taiwan’s government and people not be rising up immediately to face challenges Trump could pose to Taiwan?
Trump fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates for defying his executive order on immigration, signed executive orders to carry out his campaign promises as soon as he was sworn in, canceled a meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto over the proposed border wall, and obtained pledges of hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of investments from a long list of multinational CEOs to create jobs in the U.S.
Such a powerful leadership, if successful, would certainly make Trump a historical figure.
In addition, he almost always picks those who are somewhat senior but with a wealth of experience and resolute beliefs as well as those who are brave and pragmatic to fill important seats in his administration. Almost none of his appointees are inexperienced scholars.
Tsai was able to win the presidential election because she promised the Taiwanese people to reform the country and get rid of all unfair institutions. Compared with many of her predecessors, her reforms are considered as prompt, but if compared with Trump, Tsai’s scale of reforms and degree of daring and resolution seems minimal and only scratching the surface. What a pity!
In Taiwan, over a million of SMEs, owners of mini stalls, and farmers support the livelihood of more than 10 million Taiwanese people and are the backup for the country’s high-tech industry. They play a paramount role in steadying Taiwanese society.
Trump ordered the elimination of all unreasonable laws and regulations that are hostile to SMEs as soon as he took office; but on the contrary, Taiwan’s government and lawmaking body only continue to make laws that “patch the holes” and are unable to announce how many reforms they have achieved and how many unfair laws and regulations they have discarded. Maybe it has something to do with the cabinet that is filled with high-level government officials who have never gone through the hardship of founding a business and never experienced being bullied by unfair laws and regulations as the common people have.
In terms of national defense and diplomacy, there is no denying that Taiwan depends heavily on the U.S.; but the U.S. government and SMEs think of more than just selling arms to Taiwan. It’s not unreasonable to assume that a business as small as exporting U.S. pork to Taiwan could irritate Trump and prompt him to adopt explosive counterattack measures. From the perspectives of American business people, imports of cancer -causing cigarettes have been allowed by Taiwan, so why should U.S. pork containing ractopamine be banned?
When the time comes, under the premise of protecting the interest of local pork farmers, the only thing we can do is ask the Americans to clearly label the pork and let our consumers decide whether to buy or not; or just accept the pork like cigarettes because we cannot afford to lose the U.S. as our friend.
At the same time, Taiwan’s policies towards development of the country’s agriculture, industry and high tech as well as the issues surrounding the country’s environmental safety, food safety and agricultural safety should be reexamined. Moreover, regulations regarded by the U.S. as impediments to international trade must be gradually eliminated with accompanying measures, or else trade talks between the two countries are bound to hit the wall, not to mention the signing of a Free Trade Agreement.
Most Taiwanese people support Tsai's plans for striking reforms to turn the country around, and therefore the government should speed up and deepen reforms, do away with unfair institutions, and revoke all unfair and untimely laws and regulations to alleviate the hardship sustained by local SMEs, mini-stall owners, farmers and consumers. Only by doing these can the new-generation Taiwanese and Taiwanese society have a chance to develop and prosper.