Taiwan should try to achieve the normalization of bilateral economic and trade links in upcoming talks with China so that it can benefit from China's rise and see its economy continue to develop, the head of the quasi-official Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) said Sunday.
"The continuing development of Taiwan's economy will require a stable framework between Taiwan and China. Bilateral economic and trade systems have to be normalized through negotiations, ”SEF Chairman Chiang Pin-kung said.
He made the remarks at a forum held by Tamkang University's Graduate Institute of China Studies on the challenges Taiwan faces in its relations with China ahead of the meeting between Chiang and Chen Yunlin, president of China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), slated for early November.
Arguing that the past eight years of confrontation between China and the previous Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government harmed Taiwan's economy, Chiang said that only by strengthening relations with China could Taiwan avoid being marginalized as the rest of the region integrates and benefit from China's rise as an economic power.
“The most important goal of cross-Taiwan Strait negotiations is to fight for Taiwan's interests, ”Chiang said, adding that doing so not only creates a win-win situation for Taiwan and China, but also allows Taiwan to "still take its place in the region."
Echoing Chiang, other participants at the forum agreed that the Chiang-Chen meeting came at a crucial moment for Taiwan.
SEF adviser Pang Chien-kuo argued that the upcoming talks will herald the arrival of the systematic negotiations between Taiwan and China that were outlined the“Agreement on the Establishment of Systematic Liaison and Communication Channels Between the SEF and the ARATS,”signed in 1993.
“Only through a systematic framework can we have credible and reliable‘rules of the game, ’and through the compliance of which we can guarantee the sovereignty of Taiwan,”Pang said.
Such stable and sound rules of the game will also benefit Asia Pacific regional security and even international security, he added.
Answering questions at the seminar, Mainland Affairs Council Vice Chairman Liu Teh-hsun said politics will be off the agenda of Chiang's meeting with Chen.
Some participants in the seminar expressed concern that the second Chiang-Chen meeting might undermine Taiwan's sovereignty and hurt the interests of the people on the island.
In reply, Liu assured them that the forthcoming talks will only deal with economic issues and matters related to the livelihood of the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait and will not touch on the sovereignty issue.
Liu said the government's position is that economic issues should be dealt with first, because only after both sides have established a good foundation for economic cooperation, will there be mutual trust for them to move on to the next phase to discuss political issues.
Issues to be discussed at the Chiang-Chen meeting include establishing direct shipping links and increasing the number of weekend direct charter flights, as well as promoting food safety following China's melamine-tainted milk powder scandal.
The two first met in Beijing in June and reached landmark agreements on launching regular weekend flights and on allowing more Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan.
Chen will be the highest ranking official from the People's Republic of China to visit Taiwan since it was established in 1949.