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President Ma attends reception held by commerce and industry associations to celebrate Lunar New Year

President Ma Ying-jeou on the afternoon of February 3 attended a reception by Taiwan's seven major commerce and industry associations to mark the beginning of the new lunar year. In addition to expressing his gratitude to the businessmen and industrialists for enabling Taiwan's economic performance to rank among the best in the world, the president reiterated that the new Cabinet will carefully respond to the European debt crisis, and added that the new Cabinet will also adopt innovative methods to further bolster the economy, thereby helping Taiwan to undergo a comprehensive transformation.
In remarks at the gathering, President Ma explained that in three days a new Cabinet will be sworn in. Sixteen personnel changes will be seen at the ministerial level, he said, furthermore commenting that the big reshuffle is aimed at preparing for tough challenges that could arise from the debt crisis in the eurozone. In fact, the president pointed out, Premier Wu Den-yih in December of last year established an economic task force headed by Vice Premier Sean C. Chen. The group formulated seven major strategies and 10 focal points to ensure an effective response to any impact to the economy that might result from the European debt crisis.
President Ma stated that even though the Executive Yuan's Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics previously revised this year's projected economic growth from 4.19% down to 3.91%, per capita GDP here last year still reached US$20,000. This constitutes the most important economic milestone since 1992, when per capita GDP hit US$10,000. Meanwhile, Taiwan's unemployment rate in November of last year stood at 4.28% and fell further to 4.18% in December, a considerable improvement from four years ago at the time of the financial tsunami. President Ma remarked that economic forecasting bodies throughout the world have turned conservative on near-term growth prospects, so the government will not let down its guard. He said that the new Cabinet includes many experienced officials who were involved in the handling of the financial tsunami, so he is confident that they will quickly learn the ropes in their new positions.
In addition to carefully formulating a response to the European debt crisis, the president also discussed a number of innovative measures that the government has adopted to ensure a robust economy. Under the eight-pronged "Golden Decade, National Visions" initiative, the vision of "a robust economy" particularly stresses the importance of "transformation." President Ma said that Taiwan must remain in step with the rest of the world and take bold action if a thorough transformation is to be achieved. He pointed to Taiwan's desire to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as one example. Promotion of the TPP by the United States, and Japan's entry into the initiative, will have a major impact on Taiwan, as Taiwan has missed out on opportunities to take part in regional economic integration over the past decade and more. Fortunately, the president stated, Taiwan and mainland China have signed the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), which has enabled Taiwan to rejoin the global economy, sign an investment agreement with Japan , and enter into negotiations with Singapore and New Zealand on economic partnerships or cooperation agreements.
President Ma furthermore noted that the ECFA presently covers only one-fifth of all products. The government will work to hasten progress under the agreement, and hopes to strengthen economic cooperation. Meanwhile, with regard to cross-strait trade, the president said that the government has already decided to expand the range of permissible investments in Taiwan by mainland companies to include industrial products, services, and infrastructure. At the same time, he said, the government may begin in March to allow independent tourists from more mainland cities to visit Taiwan. Presently, residents of only three mainland cities are allowed to come to Taiwan as independent tourists, but we hope that this number will be increased to 11. The final number will be determined in the course of cross-strait talks. President Ma cited statistics showing that the majority of the 6.08 million inbound tourists to Taiwan last year came from Japan and Southeast Asian nations, with mainland Chinese tourists only accounting for a bit less than 30%. This shows that Taiwan's tourism industry is not overly reliant on mainland Chinese tourists, he said. In the future, the government will continue working to attract mainlanders to visit Taiwan, and a goal of reaching 10 million inbound tourists annually has been set for 2016 .
Turning to the topic of cross-strait relations, President Ma reiterated that the government will continue to work under the framework of the ROC Constitution to maintain the cross-strait status quo of "no unification, no independence, and no use of force." In addition, the government will continue to promote peace between the two sides based on the "1992 Consensus," whereby each side maintains its respective interpretation of "one China." President Ma said he is confident that this foundation will help Taiwan attract investment from countries throughout the world. In fact, Taiwan has already seen a surge in investment from Japan, with 47 Japanese companies having already set up facilities in Taiwan's three high-tech parks. He pointed out that special Taiwan-Japan investment zones have also yielded excellent results.
Pointing to the recent elections for the ROC president, vice president, and legislators, President Ma explained that the public is beginning to see the results of reform. In the future, he said, elections will be held only once every four years at the national level, and once at the local level. This will enable the government to focus better and move more forcefully to promote development. The changes in election policy will be extremely important to foster national development, he said.
The president also noted that while we still have a long way to go to close the gap with advanced nations, the election results show that the majority of the public supports the direction of reform as promoted by the government. He said he is pleased to see this public support but also realizes that he shoulders a heavy responsibility, so the government will continue moving carefully to complete the task of reform here. President Ma remarked that in the wake of the recent election and the work carried out by the government over the past three-plus years, he has even greater confidence in the nation and the public because we are a wonderful nation that is home to many wonderful people. The president specifically pointed out that on February 2 he made a call to Ms. Chen Shuhui, who works at a duty-free shop at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, to commend her for returning money that she found while on duty. He said he hopes to bring attention to the fact that Taiwan not only has great food and scenery, but is also full of people with high moral standards. This is something that will help to attract even more tourists to Taiwan. President Ma believes that while Ms. Chen is a store employee, she represents an important link in creating a good impression among tourists to Taiwan. This is the best publicity for Taiwan. President Ma stated that he is confident that tourists will feel at ease when they visit a nation with a clean government and honest people. He is very proud of the people of Taiwan, as they constitute the frontline in people-to-people diplomacy.
Lastly, the president pledged to those attending the event that the government will strive to create a peaceful environment in which Taiwan can prosper, and to ensure that the fruits of Taiwan's economic development will be shared by the entire public. He said the government will ensure that the underprivileged are better cared for and that the wealth gap is narrowed. These are goals that the government will always embrace, he stated.
【Source: Office of the President】