Executives, scholars urge relaxed cross-strait policies

The China Post staff

Nearly all business executives and scholars participating in a meeting yesterday called for relaxation of the government’s “no haste, be patient” policy that restricts cross-strait investments and for the opening the “three links” for direct transport, commercial and postal services between Taiwan and mainland China.

At a meeting in Taipei sponsored by the Panel on Cross-Strait Trade and Economic Affairs, which is part of the Presidential Economic Development Advisory Council, business and industry leaders, scholars and government officials were present to air their views.

The meeting was jointly chaired by Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the Cabinet-level Mainland Affairs Council, chairman Stan Shih of the Acer Group, and President Wu Rong-yi of the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research. The three are co-conveners of the panel.

Representatives of Taiwan-invested companies operating in the mainland were also invited to fly back to Taipei to present their proposals on ways to improve cross-strait economic and trade relations.

A representative of Taiwan business enterprises in Fuzhou, Fujian Province, said the government should not worry about the Taiwan economy collapsing just because of stepped-up economic interchange with the mainland. He noted that the government’s policies should revolve around changes in cross-strait and regional situations. He suggested that government officials open their minds and make a thorough study of mainland China as well as solve the “three links” problem as early as possible. Business executives back from Shenzhen urged the new government to abide by the “1992 consensus” reached by Taipei and Beijing which allows each side to have its own interpretation of the “one China” principle so that the two governments can resume long-suspended formal dialogue. Taiwan executives working in the Dongguan area of Guangdong Province pointed out that the government has been stalling on the easing of controls over investment in the mainland and direct cross-strait links for many years under the premise of safeguarding national security. They expressed hope that the government recognizes the dramatic changes in the situations of Taiwan and the mainland and make sincere efforts through the Presidential Economic Development Advisory Council.

The current government policy forbids any single project with investment capital exceeding US$50 million to make its way to the mainland. Investments in other industrial and infrastructure projects are also prohibited. Economics Professor Chang Wang-tung at Fujen University pointed out that the “no haste, be patient” policy and refusal to open the three direct links used to be Taiwan’s bargaining chips in negotiations with the mainland. But they have now become Taiwan’s burden in dealing with Beijing. He said Taiwan’s security relies on its economic strength and not on political factors. If the present situation remains unchanged, he said, Taiwan is likely to run into the same problem as Cuba, which had been engaged in political confrontation with the U.S. but lost its economic competitiveness. Yeh Kuo-yi, chairman of the Inventec Group, invited Taiwanese investors in the mainland to clap their palms as an appeal to the government’s easing on the controls. He received warm response from all participants at the meeting. Business executives back from Beijing suggested that the government revise regulations governing the relations between people in Taiwan and the mainland. They said Taiwan investors in the mainland should be allowed to join official organizations in the mainland. Similar proposals were vetoed by the MAC in the past.

When speaking at the meeting yesterday, Shi Hwei-yow, vice chairman and secretary general of the semi-official Straits Exchange Foundation entrusted with the mission of conducting negotiations with Beijing, explained that the problems across the Taiwan Strait are due to the political situation on each side and the military standoff. He said the two sides should try to find a mutually acceptable interpretation and then sign a peace agreement. The MAC’s Chairwoman Tsai declined to offer her comments on the proposals introduced at the seminar. But she and President Chen Shui-bian had pledged that the government will follow through with any conclusions adopted by the plenary session of the Economic Development Advisory Council Aug. 24-26.

The Cross-Strait Affairs Panel has already held three similar public symposiums in the southern, central and eastern regions of Taiwan to get opinions and proposals from the business community and other professionals. The heated discussions at the three previous meetings were also mainly focused on requests for easing the “no haste, be patient” policy and lifting the existing ban on direct cross-strait transport and trade services.