Mon, Oct 08, 2018 - Page 6 News List

EDITORIAL: Getting the word out at APEC

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) last week announced that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) founder Morris Chang (張忠謀) would be her special envoy at the APEC leaders’ summit in Papua New Guinea next month. Tsai said the founder of the world’s largest contract chipmaker could best represent Taiwan at the summit — the theme of which is “Harnessing Inclusive Opportunities, Embracing the Digital Future” — because he is an expert on the topic and is highly respected throughout the nation.

Many Taiwanese had speculated whether Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party government would pick People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) as her envoy for a third consecutive year, or was planning to name one of its other preferred representatives, such as former premier Lin Chuan (林全).

However, choosing Chang makes political and economic sense, given his influential position in the global semiconductor industry and considering the strained relationship between Taiwan and China.

Although Chang, 87, also served as envoy in 2006, when then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) appointed him to attend the summit in Hanoi, changes in the global economic landscape and cross-strait relations pose a serious challenge for Chang in advocating for Taiwan as he interacts with government officials and heads of state, including Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平).

APEC is one of the most important economic cooperation forums in which Taiwan participates, but China has always had de facto veto power over Taiwan’s choice of envoy. The nation had to withdraw from the 2001 summit in Shanghai after China refused right up to the last minute to send an invitation to Taiwan’s representative, former vice president Lee Yuan-tsu (李元簇).

Since then, Taipei has played it safe by choosing people such as former Academia Sinica president Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲), former vice premier Lin Hsin-yi (林信義) and Acer Inc founder Stan Shih (施振榮), as well as former vice presidents Lien Chan (連戰) and Vincent Siew (蕭萬長), to serve as the nation’s summit representative. Regardless of which political party has controlled the government, Taiwan’s envoy has always needed the approval of China and the host nation.

Chang is considered more of an entrepreneur and industry heavyweight than a politician, and is unlikely to be rejected by China or Papua New Guinea, especially as TSMC has investments in China.

Chang’s participation at the summit will develop opportunities for Taiwan to cooperate internationally, as well as present the nation’s strength and vision to the world, a task that previous representatives had as well.

What is different this year is that Taiwan and other small economies — that are key nodes in regional manufacturing supply chains — are increasingly challenged by trade barriers created by some big economies and escalating trade tensions among other major economies.

Softening momentum in global growth and interest rate hikes by the US Federal Reserve weigh on the growth potential of small economies in the region, and Chang is to confer with world leaders on how to address these challenges.

Most importantly, Chang is to share with summit attendees how Taiwan can help shape the future of the global digital economy, sharing the nation’s high-tech development and innovative capability rather than just shaking hands and exchanging smiles with world leaders.

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