Sat, Aug 25, 2001 - Page 8 News List

Cross-straight policy not the only key

By Kao Koong-lian and Lee Shin-kuan 高孔廉,李信寬

A few days ago, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) declared that "cross-strait trade is the road we must take." The people of Taiwan must approve of the importance Chen places on facing the cross-strait issue, in contrast to the severe criticism of local businessmen by several senior officials. However, Chen should go further and rise above the level of trade issues.

Making a cross-strait win-win situation the point of departure for government policy, he should consider China policy from the vantage point of global strategy and separate and amend the agreements of the Economic Development Advisory Conference into their technical, tactical and strategic aspects. Otherwise further declarations and agreements will, in the final analysis, turn out to be nothing but empty decorations.

In reality, Taiwan's economy is not sick to the bone, and some parts of the agreements and suggestions from the cross-strait panel at the advisory conference can be used. The problem lies in how the authorities evaluate what is important and what is not, what is urgent and what is not, and whether they can set a concrete and feasible timetable.

Chen should divide cross-strait economic policies into two parts -- what we can do ourselves, and what has to be achieved through cross-strait negotiations -- and deal with them separately. The former includes issues such as the loosening of the "no haste, be patient" policy, the lifting of restrictions on capital investment in China and reinforced consulting services for Taiwanese companies. Taiwan's government has full control of these issues, and the authorities should therefore set a clear timetable for their implementation as soon as possible.

Chen and his officials understand the crucial issue of negotiating such matters as signing investment guarantee or tax agreements, direct transportation and the opening up of Taiwan to Chinese tourism.

If we don't take the initiative and return to the 1992 consensus and actively create an atmosphere conducive to negotiations, we will be cold-shouldered by China. If that happens, still more political statements and still better agreements coming out of the advisory conference will still turn out to be just so much hot air.

There's actually no harm in clarifying what the cross-strait panel has already proposed and what agreements will be proposed by all members of the conference, by dividing the proposals into their technical, tactical and strategic aspects in order to differentiate between what's important and what isn't and what's urgent and what isn't. Then a timetable should be set that puts the people of Taiwan at ease and that the Chinese Communist Party can understand. This would put cross-strait relations on the tracks of a reliable and stable plan.

The technical aspects could include measures such as Chinese coming to Taiwan as tourists, Chinese scientists and technicians coming to work in Taiwan as well as direct cross-strait telecommunications, mail and money transfers. They could also include measures to match a lifting of unnecessary restrictions on Taiwanese investment in China, permission for financial and insurance companies to invest in China and improvement of the tax and investment environment in order to attract capital back to Taiwan.

Even though some officials frequently complain that companies fleeing to China hollow out the foundations of the nation, statistics show capital flowing back to Taiwan -- through exports from China, with credit going to Taiwan through returning profits and through a favorable trade balance with China, which already contributes approximately half a percentage point to Taiwan's annual economic growth rate.

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