President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday called for public support for the nation’s participation in global trade liberalization, and promised to prepare necessary measures to protect local industries.
Ma, presiding over a meeting of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Central Standing Committee, reiterated his pledge to increase Taiwan’s international competitiveness during his second term. He said he expected Taiwan to complete the signing of free-trade agreements (FTA) or trade deals with Singapore, New Zealand and the US in the next four years.
“We are falling behind in global trade liberalization, and it is important that we catch up fast by signing trade deals with major trade partners … Completing free-trade deals with other nations will create better opportunities for us to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership [TPP] and help us avoid being marginalized in global markets,” he said.
Ma made the comments in response to a report on the government’s “golden decade” goal by Council of Economic Planning and Development Minister Yiin Chii-ming (尹啟銘). Ma has promised to bring a golden decade to Taiwan, boosting the economy through participation in regional economic integration.
Ying took the occasion to defend the government’s efforts, and attributed recent public outrage against Ma to the public’s lack of understanding of the government’s achievements in leading the nation through the global financial crisis and improving cross-strait economic ties by signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA).
“I don’t think President Ma should be unhappy about the -government’s performance. There’s no need to feel sorry because the government has achieved so much in the past four years,” Ying said.
Ma, who has seen his support plunge in recent opinion polls, played down Ying’s comments by reiterating that he was unhappy about the government’s performance in four areas: the number of jobs created, the unemployment rate, the low increase in average salaries and the growing wealth gap.
Government statistics shows that over the past four years, unemployment has increased from 3.84 percent to 4.17 percent. The average monthly salary has gone up by NT$1,500 compared with four years ago, while the wealth gap has narrowed from a factor of 6.34 to 6.19.
“These figures showed that we need to work harder and improve the people’s livelihoods … The government must be more innovative, and open the nation for more opportunities economically,” he said.
He also defended the government’s efforts to resume the long-stalled Trade and Investment Framework Agreement talks with the US, which were suspended due to the ban on US beef imports.
“I hope the people can think about the importance for Taiwan to resume the talks with the US when food safety is assured,” Ma said.