Thu, Feb 27, 2003 - Page 3 News List

President rules out implementing direct links when speaking to the party faithful

TWO MESSAGES?Contrary to what he's been telling the business community, Chen said any further concessions on the disputed issue could threaten Taiwan's survival

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday appeared to rule out the wholesale implementation of planned direct links with China in the short term, telling DPP grassroots supporters that avoiding threats to Taiwan's survival made it impossible to sanction "full-fledged direct kinks" with China.

"Taiwan has opened every door that it possibly can to China. Direct links with China is definitely not an option under the current circumstances.

"This is a matter of principle," the president said. "Much capital has left Taiwan for China and if high-tech talent follow suit, then Taiwan's hollowing out will be inevitable."

The president attended a closed-door conference yesterday afternoon with hundreds of DPP members from the party's local headquarters in Changhua County in central Taiwan.

The head of the local headquarters, Lai Yi-sung (賴儀松), briefed reporters on Chen's remarks after the meeting.

When asked about the prospects for cross-strait relations, Lai said President Chen noted that it is impossible for the two sides of the Strait to head for direct links for the time being because the issue went to the core of national security and to the core of Taiwan's very existence.

Observers were quick to note yesterday how Chen's tone in his remarks to the party faithful differed from that adopted when he has addressed business leaders in recent weeks, when he emphasized the government's preparations and enthusiasm for direct links.

Meanwhile, Chen yesterday also delivered a speech at the groundbreaking ceremony of the 2004 Flower Exhibition in Changhua County where he sought to reassure farmers that the government would help them deal with the challenges resulting from Taiwan's accession to the WTO.

He took the automobile industry as an example. He said many had taken a pessimistic view of the Taiwan's automobile industry and believed that as long as the market was open, imported cars would dominate the local market.

Chen said local automobile companies actually increased their market share from 83 percent to 87 percent one year after Taiwan joined the WTO by cutting costs and improving quality.

"Taiwan has top salesmen and the best agricultural technologies in the world, and the nation's agriculture will certainly revive as long as they operate in tandem," the president said.

Chen also mentioned that many chicken farmers had worried that sanctions on the import of turkey meat might put them out of business, but it turned out that the special taste of home-bred chicken was second to none.

And there, the president said, lay Taiwan's comparative advantage and competitive edge.

Chen said following the sophistication of various production technologies, the most important part of future competitiveness lies in the strength of marketing and the presentation of products.

"Taiwan needs to rejuvenate its agriculture and agricultural villages by making the best use of and honing its world-class agricultural production technologies and first-class marketing talents," Chen said.

"The establishment of the National Park for Flowers (國家花卉區) is one of the most concrete steps toward this goal.

"In the future, the park will live up to international standards," Chen said.

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