Sat, Aug 05, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Steve Chen outlines economic goals

BUILDING ON FUNDAMENTALS The incoming minister of economic affairs won praise yesterday from the business community for his international experience

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER

Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Steve Chen (陳瑞隆), who has been tapped to head the ministry, promised yesterday to create a favorable business environment for industry.

"The fundamentals of Taiwan's economy are very good, and therefore advancing the economy on this foundation to reach another high is a major task for me," Chen said.

Because Taiwan is an export-dependent country, the ministry should be aware of the rapid changes in the international business environment and help industries strengthen their competitiveness, he said.

A graduate of the National Chung Hsing University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in economics, the 58-year-old Chen is a ministry veteran. He began his career there with a job in the Bureau of Foreign Trade (BOFT) in 1973.

His foreign trade experience was gained through trade representative positions in Belgium and Switzerland (Zurich and Geneva). He became deputy director-general of BOFT in 1996, and then director-general the next year, becoming the nation's top trade negotiator.

Chen's main achievement was leading Taiwan's bid to join the WTO through more than 200 rounds of negotiations with WTO members. Chen is also the mastermind of the nation's free trade agreement (FTA) efforts, with three FTAs concluded so far.

Business has welcomed Chen's appointment to the to economics job, and expressed high hopes for him.

"Chen's sophistication in international affairs and performance have won him a good reputation in the business world," Tsai Horng-ming (蔡宏明), an executive of the Chinese National Federation of Industries (全國工業總會), said in a telephone interview.

"We are delighted with the appointment," he said.

Chen's experience and international vision would help local companies to expand their business around the globe, Tsai said.

Duncan Levine, communication director at the European Chamber of Commerce Taipei, which has invited Chen to address its luncheons several times, said "Chen has a very good track record ? we look forward to working with him and anticipate him doing his work well."

Minister of Economic Affairs Morgan Hwang (黃營杉), who first submitted his resignation back in May, said he had to step down for health reasons.

"I realized the difficulty in upgrading Taiwan's economy? Taiwan's urgent political situation always makes economic development a priority," he said yesterday.

Despite his success in turning around Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corp (台灣菸酒公司), Hwang was criticized for not being able to handle ministerial affairs and for his perceived leadership failures.

One example that has been cited was that business leaders turned to former economics minister Ho Mei-yueh (何美玥) to discuss various issues at a preparatory meeting for last month's Conference on Sustaining Taiwan's Economic Development, even though Hwang was also at the meeting.

But Hwang said he had not wasted any time since he took the job on Jan. 25.

"I think the spirit of contribution and hard work matter... I did not make any major mistakes during my tenure," he said.

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