Premier Lin Chuan (林全) has called together dozens of high-level officials for a day-long meeting at the end of this week to discuss President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) “new southbound policy,” which has been dogged by concerns over a perceived lack of a concrete plan and unclear divisions of responsibility.
According to an Executive Yuan official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, following the conclusion of the legislature’s plenary session tomorrow, Lin will shift his focus to the planning and execution of the new southbound policy, which was officially announced by the Executive Yuan last month.
Those set to attend Friday’s meeting are Vice Premier Lin Hsi-yao (林錫耀), Executive Yuan Secretary-General Chen Mei-ling (陳美伶) and Executive Yuan spokesman Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇), the official said.
The gathering of high-level Executive Yuan members underscores the government’s emphasis on its southbound policy, the official said.
In light of Beijing’s continued reduction of the number of Chinese tourists to Taiwan since Tsai’s inauguration in May, the government has repeatedly tried to demonstrate its goodwill toward China and called for cross-strait dialogue, the official said.
“Yet Beijing has so far chosen to adopt cold-shoulder tactics, which is why the government intends to promote the new southbound policy to facilitate strategic trade alliances and draw tourists from Southeast Asian countries,” the official said.
The premier is to hear a comprehensive report by the concerned government officials at Friday’s meeting with the idea of giving him a better grasp of the potential problems facing the policy.
The guidelines for the new southbound policy were passed on Aug. 16 during a Presidential Office meeting on foreign trade strategy that Tsai presided over, and the Executive Yuan on Sept. 5 announced the plan it had drawn up in accordance with the guidelines.
The Executive Yuan’s plan states that the new southbound policy is to target 18 countries, including the 10 members of ASEAN, South Asian nations, Australia and New Zealand, which it aims to collaborate with in terms of economic cooperation, special talent exchanges, resource sharing and regional integration.
However, lawmakers have voiced concern about the plan, as the government has only allocated a budget of NT$4.2 billion (US$133.61 million) for the policy next year, which is to be divided among 16 government agencies.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Liu Shih-fang (劉世芳) said seeking to organize the policy with such a limited budget is like trying to put out a burning cart of faggots with a cup of water.
The People First Party has also questioned whether the southbound policy could really help the nation’s small-and-medium enterprises to expand into the Southeast Asian market, as a large part of the budget is earmarked for research, forums and training.
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