Don't expect the political squabbling to die down in the Year of the Dog, legislators from opposing parties said yesterday.
"I am pessimistic about resolving the gridlock," Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim candidly told enterprise leaders at yesterday's European Chamber of Commerce in Taipei luncheon.
"(The DPP's) two major attempts at (cross-party) cooperation had both failed. The first one (took place) when President Chen (Shui-bian) was first elected, and he invited Tang Fei to join the government. Instead of (forming a) coalition government, (Chen) invited individuals who were capable (of leading). (That) fell apart."
Chen gave it a second shot when he invited James Soong to a dialogue last year, she said. That failed too when Soong and Lien Chan visited China.
Striking agreements over policy issues is virtually impossible for the opposing parties, added KMT Legislator Joanna Lei.
"The two parties have both chosen to work in very, very different directions in terms of addressing (major policy issues)," Lei said.
The DPP and the KMT, for instance, are at loggerheads over Taiwan's cross-strait policy, the opposition lawmaker said.
"In 2001, (President) Chen held an economic advisory summit. We (submitted) 322 consensual items. The council, according to political records, (implemented) 95 percent of those items but major items - including direct links, direct visits, and direct investments - have not been activated," Lei said.
It was about time that the government set aside political ideologies and concentrate on resuscitating the economy by pursuing "active openness" in its relations with China, she continued.
"You must look at it as if you were the CEO of a private company. Make sure that your people will be given the best possible opportunity to expand worldwide. If we look at it (cross-strait relations) from that perspective, how can we (keep on blocking) our trade relationship (with China)?" Lei asked.
DPP's Hsiao emphasized that the government has always been open to negotiations with the PRC.
"If direct links were possible, we are open to negotiating that. In fact, we favor initiating (negotiations on) cargo and passenger flights together since we think Taiwan would better benefit from cargo flights," Hsiao said.
"But the Chinese want to negotiate on passenger flights only."
Ninety-eight percent of Taiwan's industries are also free to invest in China, said the DPP lawmaker, adding that the country's farm producers are free to export their crops to the PRC.
"(Unfortunately), people are selling Taiwan oranges everywhere (to the detriment) of (Taiwan's orange producers). Yes, it looks like there is a huge market in China but there (are risks) such as counterfeiting issues," Hsiao said.
"Our business people are (in China) at their own risks; that is why we, in many ways, are still cautious. Taiwan, as an economy, is more dependent on China than any other country (in the world). Our task is to keep on reminding, whenever possible, our business people of the potential risks (in the PRC)."
The government however could not play "big brother" to private enterprises forever, Lei said.
"The business community will take into account this aspect, and make their own decisions," she said. "I am not saying that our country should open up to the PRC without any conditions. I am saying that if you are (making) a policy decision, make Taiwan's interest your No. 1 concern."
During the question-and-answer session, an ECCT member noted that Taiwan still bans the import of around 2,400 products from China - the list includes chocolates - due to national security concerns among others.
"We do have quarantine issues on Chinese imports but I have never heard of chocolates (being banned due to) national security issues," Hsiao replied.
"We have (to address) health and safety issues. We have heard problems concerning Chinese products and it's the responsibility of our government to impose very strict quarantine standards."
The DPP lawmaker likewise underscored the administration's determination to push through with economic reforms and increase government efficiency. Efforts are also being made to "internationalize" Taiwan, she continued.
"The government is promoting (usage of the) English language down to our very local government offices," said Hsiao. "We have to internationalize because we have a citizenship that is also 'internationalized.'"
Today, one out of every seven babies born in Taiwan has a foreign parent, the legislator said.
"This is a very new phenomenon, and this will have a tremendous impact on society," she said.