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Complementary steps needed in cross-strait economic plan, says expert

Complementary steps needed in cross-strait economic plan, says expert
The government should give up the one-way thinking of "opening" and "tightening" in making its cross-Taiwan Strait economic policy but instead interact with the business sector to work out some feasible complementary measures, Taiwan Thinktank Chairman Chen Po-chih (陳博志) said yesterday.

The economist was commenting on President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) New Year address, in which the president said "proactive management and effective liberalization" will represent the new mindset and course of action for Taiwan's future cross-strait economic and trade policies.

The president said the "proactive management and effective liberalization" policy will replace the existing one calling for "proactive liberalization and effective management" that has been in place since a consensus was reached in the 2001 Economic Development Advisory Conference, Chen said, which he said means that the government must "proactively" take up the responsibility of "management" in order to "effectively" lower the risks of "liberalization."

Chen Po-chih, who is one of the economists who contributed to the government's "no haste, be patient" policy towards China in the 1990s, said when he put forth that proposal, he had realized that cross-strait economic policy should not be based on one-way thinking but should vary according to the complexities of different situations.

According to Chen, Taiwan businessmen should be allowed to take advantage of the Chinese market but in cases when national interests are jeopardized, they should be prohibited from setting up operations in China.

He suggested that the government conduct a more refined review of its cross-strait economic policy to achieve the goal of "effective liberalization."

Citing the issue of opening direct cross-strait transportation links as an example, he said the government and the business sector disagree on the issue because the government needs to take national security into consideration, when the business sector sees mainly the profits they may generate from opening the links.

To sort out the problem, both sides should propose some complementary measures that they think are feasible and together find some mutually beneficial resolutions, he said.

Cross-strait links

In a meantime, a university professor said Taiwan should normalize charter cargo and passenger flights to China and allow more Chinese tourists in the country, as these are also things Beijing expects to happen during the administration of President Chen Shui-bian.

Professor Chang Wu-yueh from Tamkang University's Institute of China Research made the statement in response to Chen's New Year's Day address yesterday. He said he did not sense any concrete change in the president's speech regarding cross-strait relations.

Chang said that the president failed to mention the "three links" issue, which is something that all parties, including China, the U.S. and other countries that are involved with Taiwan in terms of trade and economy are highly interested in.

"The best time to develop closer relations with China is this year because in 2007 there will be many key events that might bring changes to cross-strait relations. Taiwan can first normalize charter cargo and passenger flights to China as a first step of developing closer relations with the other side of the Strait, then it can allow more Chinese tourists to come," Chang said.

Chang suggested that charter flights be organized on a regular basis, even on each weekend, which could be a substitute plan for direct flights that Beijing expects so much to happen.

Chang said that 2006 would be the best moment to strengthen relations with China because of the legislative elections in 2007 in Taiwan, as the size of the legislature will be cut nearly in half. Besides that, Beijing is going to organize the 17th General People's Congress in 2007 as Taiwan prepares itself for the presidential election of 2008.

"Although the president said that his New Year's Day address this year would be of greater importance than his previous two inauguration addresses, I really don't see the difference. He didn't make very many meaningful statements on cross-strait relations and I don't know what his point was. He only emphasized "Taiwan consciousness" and Taiwan's national identity, which is meaningless in reshaping the country's cross-strait relations policies," Chang added.

Chang reiterated that 2006 is the key time to reshape policies with China. "If cross-strait policies are done properly this year, then it will provide a solid basis for Taiwan no matter who the ruling party is in 2008," Chang said.