By Johnny C. Chiang, Minister, Government Information Office
The Republic of China (Taiwan) will celebrate its 99th birthday on October 10, 2010. Over the past six decades, Taiwan’s economic performance and democratic transformation have been strongly affirmed by the international community. And, in recent years, our effort in achieving cross-strait reconciliation and peace in the Asia-Pacific has borne fruit. These accomplishments have laid a firm foundation for robust development in the coming decade.
Since taking office in May 2008, President Ma Ying-jeou has promoted healthy interaction with mainland China, while also supporting international development and cooperation. These policies have been undertaken in line with the principles of “no unification with the mainland, no creation of an independent Taiwan republic, and no use of force to settle sovereignty issues” and “putting Taiwan first for the benefit of the people.”
A new chapter is being written in cross-strait relations. In June 2010, Taiwan and mainland China signed the Cross-Straits Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), whose Early Harvest Program reduced tariffs on more than 800 products while opening up the service sector on both sides. On the same day the ECFA was signed, the two sides also separately inked an agreement on intellectual property rights protection. These significant breakthroughs followed on the heels of changes allowing mainland Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan directly and the launch of direct postal, transportation and trade links.
Over 1.5 million mainland tourists have come to Taiwan since we lifted related restrictions in July 2008. In August 2010, laws were revised to allow mainland students to pursue studies in Taiwan. And the fact that the ECFA took effect this September has been conducive to the normalization of economic and trade relations. These advances have further integrated Taiwan into Asia-Pacific markets and the global economy.
Mainland investment, tourists and students not only offer Taiwan sizeable economic opportunities and inject a new vitality into the economy, they also allow people of the two sides to get to know each other better. Moreover, these changes have relieved fears of war in the Taiwan Strait, a “peace dividend” the world is now enjoying thanks to President Ma’s cross-strait policies.
An important consequence of this new, peaceful overtone in cross-strait relations was our receipt of an invitation by the World Health Organization to attend the World Health Assembly (WHA) as an observer in 2009. We were also invited to send a delegation to attend the 2010 convention in May. At the WHA, we have shared our experiences in disease prevention and medical treatment with other countries.
At present, we are seeking to participate in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the International Civil Aviation Organization as well as other UN specialized agencies to help resolve climate change and flight safety issues. We desire to work with all nations to solve problems we collectively face, and we hope mainland China and other countries will support these efforts.
Peaceful progress in the cross-strait relationship — long hoped for by the international community — has opened up opportunities not only for cross-strait cooperation, but also for Taiwan to retake the initiative on economic development as we confront the challenge of “new regionalism.”
As a result of our efforts, Taiwan was ranked eighth in the World Competitiveness Yearbook 2010 by the Swiss-based International Institute for Management Development, up from 23rd in 2009. Since the ECFA’s signing, the international community has looked favorably upon Taiwan’s economic development prospects. Our GDP is expected to grow 8.24 percent in 2010. Even more encouraging was the September 2010 global investment report issued by US-based Business Environment Risk Intelligence, in which Taiwan was rated fourth worldwide in investment environment.
Looking ahead, Taiwan will work to maximize opportunities and minimize risks as we vigorously improve cross-strait relations further and sign trade agreements with other major trading partners. We are also encouraging global investment in Taiwan in 32 areas, including biotechnology, green energy, refined agriculture, tourism, healthcare, the cultural and creative industries, knowledge-based industries and key service industries. Such efforts will transform Taiwan into a hub for regional trade, investment and innovation.
Taiwan and mainland China have been governed separately for 61 years. As such, there still remain many issues concerning the two sides’ different political and social systems that need to be ironed out. Nevertheless, we will continue our work to improve cross-strait relations and participate in international affairs to a greater extent. This will help foster a peaceful external environment and improve overall competitiveness for Taiwan. A “golden decade” can then commence for a strong Taiwan well connected to the Asia-Pacific and the world.
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