Tue, Nov 15, 2016 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: President Tsai Ing-wen takes aim at economic growth

In her first interview with Taiwanese media since taking office in May, President Tsai Ing-wen spoke to the ‘Liberty Times’ (sister newspaper of the ‘Taipei Times’) about her administrative team and her policies aimed at reviving the nation’s economy. This is the second part of the interview

Liberty Times (LT): Will the government’s foreign trade policy, especially the “new southbound policy,” to be affected by developments in the US?

Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文): A [US president-elect Donald] Trump administration brings great uncertainty to the liberalization of global trade and to the development of multilateral economic integration.

We plan to pay close attention to those developments and to respond effectively.

However, those developments will not affect the government’s policy to expand trade with other nations. Asia’s overall economy is highly reliant on global trade and it is a vast and common interest for all Asian nations.

As an “insular economy,” Taiwan is fundamentally dependent on trade; therefore we need to improve our economic links with neighboring Asian states and other nations in the region, put all our effort into developing bilateral ties and aggressively pursue national participation in regional economic cooperative relationships.

Of course, we wish to continue bolstering bilateral economic ties between Taiwan and the US through negotiations, and to build an enduring and mutually beneficial relationship.

Some say Trump’s isolationism will cause Asian nations to move closer into China’s orbit and lead to heavier resistance to the “new southbound policy.”

I reiterate: The “new southbound policy” was not intended to replace or check the cross-strait economic relationship, but as an adjustment to emerging economic developments in the Asia-Pacific region, to reconfigure Taiwan’s overall regional role and to gather momentum for growth.

With reference to the new political situation in the US, it reinforces the importance and necessity of my administration’s push for the “new southbound policy.”

We must reaffirm our dedication to building close economic links and developing a sense of common purpose with ASEAN, South Asian nations, New Zealand, Australia and other nations to mitigate economic uncertainties with collective action.

LT: Your administration has been in office for nearly six months now. As the president, how do you evaluate its performance?

Tsai: We are trying to address basic economic and societal issues, and this expends political capital, which is risky for politicians.

For example, a commercial entity that invests in research and development needs to keep investing capital into the effort and cannot expect to see benefits arriving any earlier than the successful conclusion of the process. Ultimately, someone has to do the work in order for anything to change.

At the conclusion of a successful presidential campaign, voters of course have high expectations of the elected candidate, but as the task of governance begins, there is a period of lower approval ratings.

Dealing with problems inherited from the previous administration is the hardest task for this government and confronting them might involve changing things at a basic level, such as making structural adjustments to the economy, which is a time-consuming task and it is difficult to see short-term results.

When building a house, laying the foundations is bound to be messy and noisy. However, to have a sturdy and comfortable house, the foundation must be laid with patience and care. This is where we are now.

Since 2012, we have engaged in a dialogue with society in search of solutions for national problems. We are confident in our choices; glitches and bumps down the road do not affect our confidence.

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