Tycoons urge Chen to open cross-strait links

The China Post staff and CNA

A group of leading businessmen met with President Chen Shui-bian yesterday, urging an early relaxation of current policy guarding cross-strait trade.

The group, led by Formosa Plastics Group chairman Wang Yung-ching, said Taiwan will face not only economic, but also political challenges, and that it also has to share the pain of an anticipated slowdown in the global economy.

The three-hour meeting, following a courtesy visit by Premier Chang Chun-hsiung to Wang on Thursday, also discussed a wide range of economic and financial issues.

They told the president that Taiwan must make better use of foreign capital to ensure that enterprises will still keep their roots in Taiwan even after moving to mainland China to lower production costs.

Wang asked the government to adopt a more open attitude toward investments on the mainland. He said overseas investment does not mean the exodus of industry, but rather the expansion of Taiwan’s economic strength.

Sources said the president refrained from making many comments through the course of the three-hour meeting.

Although no statement was released concerning the details of the two-and-a-half-hour meeting, sources close to Chen said questions of how to calm Taiwan’s political turmoil and how to address the island’s pressing financial issues dominated the discussion.

The meeting was arranged by the president swiftly after Wang on Thursday openly criticized the government for deepening political uncertainties, which he said have afflicted the business sector.

The plastics tycoon on Thursday held a press conference, calling on the government to adopt the former government’s acknowledgement that there is only one China, even though the definition is still subject to different interpretations.

Former Council for Economic Planning and Development chairman P.K. Chiang gave the thumbs up to the meeting, saying the government should meet more frequently with business representatives. Strengthening communication with the business sector will help the government form better policies, said Chiang.

But he also stressed that the government must improve the investment environment at home, including assurances that investors will face no power or water shortages, to prevent a capital exodus.

The former economic planner said the government, in formulating upcoming industrial policies, must give its priority to industries that are competitive worldwide, and should consider letting those unable to survive at home leave for cheaper areas.

Former finance minister Paul Chiu echoed Chiang’s view. Chiu said political shambles at home have scared away many investors, existing or potential.

He noted that the value of listed companies have fallen by 32.7 percent since the new administration took office in May, down to NT$8.8759 trillion from NT$13.1846 trillion.

The finance veteran also urged the national stabilization fund to withdraw from the stock market as over-intervention will only do harm to the market.

Chiu said the economy is poised to a slowdown next year and that drastic changes following the nation’s pending entry to the World Trade Organization will pose more challenges to the government.

He urged the government to make good use of the legislature’s recent passage of banking act revisions, financial merger law, and a number of other related regulations to strengthen the financial sector.