President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday expressed optimism about Taiwan’s economic recovery, despite the sluggish global economy, and said the government would focus on signing economic cooperation pacts with major trade partners.
In an interview with CNBC, Ma discussed the nation’s strategy of bringing about recovery by seeking closer trade ties with countries including the US, China and Japan.
“Our economy is on the road to recovery, albeit at a very slow pace … Although we cannot be too optimistic, the economic upturn should be obvious,” he said.
Citing 0.98 percent GDP growth in the third quarter, Ma said various indicators were signaling positive growth and that he saw “the light at the end of the tunnel” as the government continued its efforts to revive the economy.
Ma said that the road to the economic recovery remained long, but stressed the government’s efforts to strengthen economic ties with other countries.
Taiwan signed the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China two years ago and signed a bilateral investment deal with Japan in September last year. The nation is now in negotiations with Singapore and New Zealand to finalize economic cooperation agreements.
Ma attributed the signing of economic pacts with major trading partners to the nation’s successful signing of the ECFA with China, saying exports of the items included in the ECFA had increased in the past two years, although total exports to China have decreased due to the global economic slowdown.
“The decline in exports would have been even greater if we hadn’t signed the ECFA,” he said.
When asked to comment on The Economist’s description of him as “an ineffectual bumbler,” Ma said he respected the British magazine’s freedom of expression and added that the British Representative Office had clarified some issues addressed in the article.
“[The magazine] needs to understand that Taiwan’s economic performance is not that bad. Another aspect is that as the president, I placed a great deal of emphasis on cross-strait relations and foreign relations. We’ve worked hard to improve cross-strait interactions and greatly reduced tensions across the Strait to their best in 16 years,” he said.
The article, released last month and titled “Ma the bumbler,” said that despite Ma’s re-election to a second term in January, his approval rating had plunged to a record low, saying that “the country appears to agree on one thing: Mr. Ma is an ineffectual bumbler.”
The Ma administration has reacted strongly to the article, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reportedly being told by the Presidential Office to file a complaint with The Economist. The ministry later denied the reports and said it had contacted the magazine to explain Ma’s policies, not to lodge a protest.