Calls for student participation as forum proceeds

By Ted Chen ,The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — A national economic conference organized by the government entered its second day amid calls for more student participation as speakers discussed a range of issues, from Taiwan’s global trade strategy to its cultural industry. The Executive Yuan’s National Conference on Economic and Trade Affairs (經貿國是會議) yesterday concluded its second day of talks, with the government engaging the private sector in a discussion on a wide range of topics to improve Taiwan’s economic growth, with emphasis on devising a strategy for how the nation can best participate in the trend of globalization and join regional trade pacts.

Numerous speakers at the event expressed concerns over Taiwan’s lack of progress in participating in regional trade pacts such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), fearing that the nation may become marginalized in an increasingly globalized world.

Chinese National Federation of Industries Chairman Hsu Sheng-hsiung, one of four conference hosts, called for Sunday’s session to be more focused. The range of opinions from the delegates on the first day of the conference were too broad to be practically applied, Hsu said.

Hsu’s call apparently fell on deaf ears, however, as Sunday’s sessions brought up a wide-range of suggestions for assisting small- and medium-size enterprises, pursuing free trade agreements, supporting the start-ups of young entrepreneurs and assisting with agricultural product processing, etc. The Taiwan Association of Machinery Industry (台灣機械公會) emphasized that the lack of progress in cross-strait goods and services industry trade pacts will be exacerbated by South Korea’s upcoming free trade agreement with China, which is slated to be inked by July next year. The association noted that the situation is dire across the sector as heavy tariffs are imposed on machinery products in China, while expressing regret over answering the government’s previous call to bring manufacturing back to Taiwan. The sector may see another exodus abroad, said the association. Most notably, in a bid to avoid claims that the event was conducted behind closed doors, the government set up a live “chat wall” system to broadcast queries and comments made by netizens in real-time. In contrast to the more abrasive and sarcastic language commonly found in Internet discussions, participants on the chat wall showed decorum and addressed relevant ministers and heads of governing bodies by their official titles. The anonymity of the Internet, however, gave rise to questions on whether the well-behaved netizens were actually representative of public opinion.