Chen reaffirms end to ‘go slow’ policy

The China Post staff

President Chen Shui-bian yesterday, in apparent defense of Vice President Annette Lu’s criticism of the imminent removal of the “go slow” ban, said cross-strait trade is the right path to take. Without directly referring to his deputy’s complaints, Chen said as far as global competition is concerned, fast-tracking cross-strait trade is the trend.

“It’s a wise choice, a right path we must follow,” Chen said during a visit to a semiconductor factory in Kaohsiung County. But he stressed that the “go slow” restrictions on mainland-bound investments could only be replaced with active and efficient management. Dismissing “someone’s” fears over the changes, Chen said the island will be “absolutely safe” if the government gives priority to Taiwan, makes plans with global perspectives, seeks a win-win situations, and resorts to danger management. “Only those who lack confidence are afraid,” said Chen. He said Taiwan’s businesses are like a cyclist who cannot always ride in a tightly sealed room, but instead must go out to the open air so as to improve their skills. Taiwan may only stand a chance by actively opening up, unshackling itself of the “go slow” ban, he said. The Presidential Economic Development Advisory Council (PEDAC) has been seeking unanimity, and is expected to come up in a short while with a clear direction for government policies, he said. A panel meeting of the PEDAC has proposed lifting the “go slow” restrictions, a proposal the administration is expected to accept. But the vice president on Monday blasted the proposal as an attempt by Taiwan businesses operating in mainland China to force the government to abandon its last defense against the communists. She also called on “the authorities in power” to muster the courage and conscience to face the pressure. Her reproach has been interpreted as a further proof of her sour relationship with the president. But Lu yesterday rebuked that the media was oversensitive, provoking tensions between her and Chen. She said she only wanted to remind the public of a report by National Security Bureau Director Ting Yu-chou, who said mainland China was trying to force Taiwan into unification by holding the island at ransom economically. She said she was airing her opinion on the conflict between the security bureau’s caution and the economic agencies’ bold changes.

Earlier her spokeswoman, Tsai Ming-hua, said “the authorities in power” Lu mentioned in her Monday remarks did not refer to Chen, but administrative agencies who make decisions on cross-strait matters. She quoted the vice president as saying she thought Chen wanted to hear different opinions. Lu has been eager to make herself heard since taking the vice presidential office.

But she has mostly made complaints about her being sidelined, and criticisms of the government policies, alienating herself from both the public and the president. Top aides to Chen were quoted as saying that the Presidential Office cannot restrain Lu, but hopes that she would exercise some self-restraint. Despite political tensions across the strait, Taiwan investors have poured some US$60 billion into the mainland since detente began in the late ’80s. The PEDAC panel on Sunday advised the government to make preparations for direct transportation through bilateral talks, and loosen restrictions on shipping goods to and from the mainland as well as permitting private transportation firms to discuss cooperation with mainland counterparts.

It also recommended that the government replace its long-standing “go slow” policy restricting investments in strategic sectors and a US$50 million cap on each project with “active opening, effective management.”