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President Ma's New Year's Day Address(excerpt: cross-strait relations)

III. Further opening Taiwan's markets; actively engaging in regional economic integration

From the start of my presidency, I was keenly aware that if we wanted to take Taiwan's economy to the next level, we would have to break through the stalemate in cross-strait relations. If Taiwan was to expand further into the mainland Chinese market and more readily take part in regional economic integration, there was only one way to do it—we were going to have to end the cross-strait standoff, boost cross-strait economic and trade cooperation, and respond in a timely manner to the economic transformation of mainland China by adjusting our industrial structure and pursuing cross-strait industrial cooperation.

Therefore, five and a half years ago this administration made the 1992 Consensus—whereby each side acknowledges the existence of "one China" but maintains its own interpretation of what that means—the foundation on which to rebuild the cross-strait relationship. In addition, we identified viable diplomacy as the means to avoid zero-sum diplomatic competition between the two sides. As a result, the Taiwan Strait is no longer a tense flashpoint, but rather, has become an avenue of peace, and a gateway through which other countries can enter the mainland Chinese market.

The government has maintained a balanced strategy in promoting the development of external trade and investment relations. On the one hand, it has endeavored to improve the cross-strait relationship and increase bilateral trade and investment. At the same time, it is expanding international relations and participating in regional economic integration. These two approaches are complementary, and a proper balance must be struck between them. In 2010, we signed the Cross-Straits Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with mainland China, our largest trading partner. In 2011, we concluded our first bilateral investment agreement in 60 years with Japan, our second largest trading partner. In March of 2013, we resumed talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with the United States, our third largest trading partner. In July 2013, we inked an economic cooperation agreement with New Zealand, our 40th largest trading partner. And in November 2013, we signed an economic partnership agreement with Singapore, our fifth largest trading partner. We will continue working to conclude economic cooperation agreements with members of the ASEAN and the EU, and will also be seeking membership in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

My fellow countrymen, our trade with the 12 members of the TPP in 2012 accounted for a 35% share of Taiwan's total external trade, while trade with the 16 members of the RCEP accounted for a 56% share. These figures show how important it is, and how urgently necessary, that we join these two economic partnerships.

IV. Cooperation and concerted efforts between ruling and opposition parties; a brighter future for Taiwan

Currently, our most important task is to speed up the pace of trade liberalization and market opening. The Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement was signed last June, and then sent to the Legislative Yuan for deliberations in September. Since then, more than three months have elapsed and the Legislative Yuan is still conducting public hearings. We hope that legislative deliberations will begin soon, so that the statutorily required procedures can be completed at an early date. For Taiwan's trading partners, the delayed ratification of the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement has triggered doubts on the part of governments and corporations. They have begun to think that domestic opinion in Taiwan is divided and that consensus cannot be reached very easily. This severely affects their willingness to sign FTAs with us and expand their investments in Taiwan.

And that is not all. The ROK and Japan are currently negotiating an FTA with mainland China. Some of the preferential treatment the two countries are seeking is exactly what is included in the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement. If the ROK and Japan reach a deal with the mainland while we remain stalled, we will effectively be handing the mainland market to our competitors. Therefore, I once again solemnly call on both the ruling and opposition parties to work together as expeditiously as possible to pass bills that are conducive to Taiwan's economic development.

My fellow countrymen, to show our determination to participate in regional economic integration, I have instructed the Executive Yuan to expand the existing International Economic and Trade Strategy Task Force, and to act as quickly as possible to propose specific action plans for accelerating promotion of the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement and a trade in goods agreement, and for joining the TPP and RCEP. I will personally preside over the first meeting of the task force on January 3, and in the future will regularly receive briefings from it. I will also ask former Vice President Vincent Siew, who just last November led a group of senior Taiwanese business leaders on a visit to the US, to set up a promotion committee composed of members from the private sector, including figures from the opposition parties and representatives of the business community. This committee will solicit a full range of public opinion in order to build consensus and propose concrete strategies by which Taiwan can get a foot in the door in the process of regional economic integration. The completion of ECFA follow-up talks and agreements as well as Taiwan's membership in the TPP and RCEP are our unswerving goals. This administration will adopt a dual-track approach and seek public unity to move forward at full speed. The Executive Yuan will also make good use of an already earmarked 10-year budget of NT$98.2 billion in an all-out effort to implement the Program to Assist with Industrial Adjustment to Trade Liberalization. This undertaking will provide assistance to companies that are in need of guidance and financial support.

Taiwan is now at a critical juncture. This government will apply itself even more diligently and make an even greater effort, and will conscientiously heed criticism and feedback from citizens. We also hope that the various sectors of our society will come up with constructive ideas and pool their strengths to jointly grow our economy. The ruling and opposition parties should set aside their biases and work together to promote economic and trade liberalization and boost Taiwan's competitiveness.

【Source: Office of the President】