Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday called for a “new strategic partnership” with the US, while President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) touted his administration’s achievements during their individual speeches at the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Taipei.
Tsai and Ma, who are both running in the Jan. 14 presidential election, were invited to present their platforms at the organization’s annual general meeting.
Tsai highlighted the importance of Taiwan-US relations, which date back six decades, and pledged that she would re-engage the US to reverse the “imbalanced” trilateral relationship between Taiwan, the US and China that has emerged under the Ma administration.
A new strategic partnership between Taiwan and the US, which is re-engaging the Asia-Pacific region, is essential because both share common interests in and responsibility for regional security and stability, and both are committed to the principles of free trade, she said.
The partnership would be mutually beneficial in exploring new and emerging markets, particularly markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Tsai said.
She pledged to place greater effort on maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and fostering “an atmosphere where dialogues and interaction is possible” without compromising Taiwan’s fundamental interests if elected.
However, she would not use cross-strait relations as a campaign tool and “drive a partisan wedge between different groups in Taiwan.”
Instead, partisan differences would only be evident in the two parties’ domestic policies, she said.
Tsai said she would generate a “Taiwan consensus” so that the country could sit down with China to build up substantial bilateral relations.
The Ma administration has only actively pursued trade relations with China during the past three years and has yet to show its determination and preparedness for joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) despite its recent declaration of its intention, she said.
“The DPP’s position has been that the US should take the lead in creating an APEC-based free- trade agreement for the region, which would, of course, include Taiwan,” she said, reiterating her support for the nation’s participation in the TPP.
Her administration would prepare Taiwan for the high-level free-trade agreement “in the shortest time possible” through a structural adjustment of the economy — from a production-driven economy to one based on research and development (R&D), promoting environmental issues and the long-term care industry, and providing quality job opportunities, she said.
Tsai urged the US to enhance the function and operation of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement and to facilitate visits by high-level US officials.
Asked during the question-and-answer session about the so-called “1992 consensus,” Tsai said: “It is only sensible that it’s difficult to recognize something that does not exist.”
For his part, Ma told AmCham members that while his administration had “changed, upgraded and transformed Taiwan,” he was seeking a second term because a lot more needed to be done.
The president used the word “unprecedented” several times during his speech to highlight his administration’s domestic and foreign achievements, including expanding visa-waiver privileges for Taiwanese to 154 countries and signing 16 agreements with China.
He said that the institutionalization of cross-strait rapprochement “is probably the most important strategy in Taiwan.”
Ma also touched on his recent controversial initiative of possibly signing a peace agreement with Beijing within 10 years, saying there was no timetable for such an agreement and that a referendum would be a prerequisite before negotiations could begin.
AmCham agreed with the platforms of both candidates, including their emphasis on stability in cross-strait relations, trade liberalization and the TPP, talent issue and a new economy driven by innovation or R&D, AmCham chairman Bill Wiseman told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting.
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