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President Ma convenes press conference to discuss recent gas explosions in Kaohsiung(excerpt: cross-strait relations)

While the nation's economic performance in the first half of this year improved considerably, the external challenges we face are still steep. On August 4, the renowned American business daily The Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece entitled "Taiwan Leaves Itself Behind ." The article criticized Taiwan's current social climate of isolationism, and the essay resonated quite a bit throughout Taiwan. The tone of the article was quite strong, and may have seemed very harsh to us. The content, however, went straight to the heart of the problem that we face.

First, mainland China is an integral part of the global supply chain, and economic ties between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are quite close. Some 80% of Taiwan's external investment and 40% of its exports head to mainland China, including Hong Kong. Nothing is going to change this situation. By setting up barriers to trade and investment ties with mainland China, we solve nothing, and only hurt ourselves.

Second, mainland China and Korea are expected to sign a free trade agreement at the end of this year, after which the vast majority of Korean products will enter mainland China tariff-free. Many of Taiwan's and Korea's exports compete head-to-head, so the signing of that agreement will pose a serious problem for Taiwan. To overcome the competitive disadvantage this will foist upon us, and to reduce our reliance on mainland China for exports, our legislature should pass the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement and the Cross-Strait Trade in Goods Agreement to avoid becoming more isolated as neighboring countries reduce their trade barriers.

Third, the ROC's Legislative Yuan should quickly pass the Cross-Strait Agreement Supervisory Act and ratify the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement, both of which were blocked due to the student protests. If lawmakers do not pass these measures, Taiwan will become further isolated.

In a strongly worded albeit well-intentioned editorial, The Wall Street Journal pointed out the difficulties and challenges faced by Taiwan. The three points which the article made and that I've just outlined, are the very points my administration has made over and over. Still, some people believe we are just being alarmist, while others have even accused us of fear mongering. Now, the international media has echoed what we've been saying. This indicates that liberalization, internationalization, and cooperation across the Taiwan Strait are indeed what the times call for, and what the people want.

In order to avoid becoming marginalized in the Asia-Pacific region, we will continue to promote trade liberalization and push ahead with deregulation and market opening, and have no choice but to engage in trade and economic cooperation with mainland China. At this difficult period, I want to urge the ruling and opposition camps to come together and cooperate, and to adopt a rational and pragmatic attitude in facing the serious issue of regional economic and trade integration and global trade liberalization. We must not let Taiwan lose forward momentum!

I sincerely hope that everyone who cares about Taiwan, regardless of their political affiliation or views, will work together with the highest and best interests of the people of Taiwan at heart and stop their political bickering. On the one hand, we must go quickly about the task of rescue and rebuilding in the wake of the Kaohsiung gas explosions. At the same time, we must look to the future and think calmly about the issues facing us. We must pursue long-term development and economic prosperity to achieve the greatest possible wellbeing for the people of Taiwan.

I would like to reiterate my calls for the opposition party to abandon its tactic of forcibly occupying the speaker's podium in order to paralyze the legislature. If a violent minority continues to bully the majority, resulting in paralysis of the legislature's agenda, what is going to become of Taiwan's economy? What good does it do anyone to win out in internal strife if Taiwan as a whole comes out a loser? We all have to work together to continue moving Taiwan forward, for Taiwan is the only home we have. Moving forward is our only choice. We cannot turn back. We absolutely must move boldly ahead.

【Source: Office of the President】