Advisory panel to review cross-strait policies

The China Post staff

The controversy over the “three links” and “go slow” policies will be on the agenda of the upcoming presidential economic development advisory council, officials said yesterday. The timing and conditions for opening the “three links”, and relaxing the “go slow” ban to promote active cross-strait trade and investment will be discussed by the 120-member council, according to its agenda panel. The nine-member agenda panel met at the Presidential Office yesterday, coming up with the agenda for the advisory council to be inaugurated next month. The long-standing cross-strait problems have gotten worse since a presidential official earlier this week angered the opposition by saying the council’s decision to improve the economy by opening the three links may not be implemented. Other cross-strait issues to be discussed will include mechanisms to control capital flow across the strait, the attraction of mainland tourists, and adjustments to bilateral trade agreements after Taipei and Beijing enter the WTO, the panel said. The agenda panel has grouped 43 specific topics in five categories. In addition to cross-strait issues, the categories include the surging unemployment rate, the deteriorating domestic investment climate, various industries’ declining competitiveness, and problems in the financial industry. Meanwhile, rumors have spread that President Chen Shui-bian has appointed former Premier Vincent Siew to serve as deputy chairman of the council, after Kuomintang Chairman Lien Chan rejected the post. Siew, an incumbent KMT vice chairman, yesterday said that no one had told him about the appointment, and that he was not in a position to make any comments. But he added that the KMT, which is very concerned about economic problems, will not be absent from the presidential council. KMT Secretary-General Lin Fong-cheng also denied that his party had been informed about the Siew appointment. If Siew was invited as an individual and not as a representative of the KMT, Lin said it would be up to the former premier whether or not to accept the appointment. If, however, President Chen Shui-bian hoped that the KMT would officially recommend Siew for the vice chairman post, then the party must follow its own internal regulations for the recommendation, Lin said. The KMT has recommended that its senior member C.F. Koo, chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation, be offered a deputy chairman seat, but the president has yet to respond. Lien isn’t the only opposition leader to have snubbed Chen’s economic rescue scheme. People First Party Chairman James Soong remains evasive though he has yet to formally reject the offer of a vice chairman post on the council. Soong said yesterday that the council should listen to and respect the opinions of experts and industry leaders. Stressing that politics and economics must be set apart, he said he would be willing to help in any political negotiations to implement the council’s decisions after the close of the meeting.

PFP Legislator Liu Wen-hsiung said Soong’s remarks were a subtle way of saying no to the vice chairmanship. The PFP’s legislative caucus earlier this week called for Soong to stay away from what they called a politically manipulative council. Chen proposed the council on the eve of the first anniversary of his inauguration as president, hoping to pool the wisdom of the various political parties and sectors of society in order to revive the local economy.

According to a blueprint outlined by a 35-member preparatory committee for the new body, Chen himself will serve as chairman of the new group. It has been disclosed that Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, Formosa Plastics Group chairman Wang Yung-ching, Evergreen Group chairman Chang Yung-fa, Fubon Group chairman Tsai Wan-tsai, Academia Sinica head Lee Yuan-tseh, and Siew have been invited to join a 10-member advisory core in the new council.

President Chen will host a dinner Saturday in honor of the deputy chairs, council members and panel session conveners of the new group, according to officials from the Presidential Office.

“As members of the new council will come from a wide spectrum of society, President Chen hopes that the dinner meeting can help forge consensus and ensure the smooth operation of the new group,” the official said.