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Nov 04, 2008, No. 087

  • Date:2008-11-04

Lai Shin-yuan: Hoping that the Mainland will seize the current favorable opportunity to jointly advance cross-strait relations

This afternoon, Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman Chiang Pin-kung and Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) Chairman Chen Yunlin represented their respective sides in signing four agreements on air transportation, sea transportation, food safety and postal service. After the successful conclusion of the high-level talks between the two sides, Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister Lai Shin-yuan met with ARATS Chairman Chen Yunlin and other members of the ARATS delegation. Both of them extensively exchanged views on current institutionalized negotiations between the two sides and the overall cross-strait development.

Minister Lai indicated that, in keeping with international and cross-strait customary practices, the content of the discussions during the closed-door meeting between the two sides will not be disclosed without the mutual consent of both sides. Therefore, only an overall explanation regarding the process of the meeting will be provided as follows.

During the meeting, Minister Lai expressed four key points to ARATS Chairman Chen. First, she emphasized the importance of parity-based cross-strait negotiations. Secondly, she specifically explained the priority of establishing order in cross-strait exchanges. Thirdly, she presented her thoughts on the need to share with all of the people the benefits of exchanges and negotiations. And fourthly, she reminded the Mainland side that it should face up to cross-strait realities, seize the current favorable moment, and work together with Taiwan to create long-term peace and development in cross-strait interactions.

Minister Lai expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the second Chiang-Chen Talks. She was especially pleased that, following the melamine-contaminated milk powder incident in the Mainland in mid-September, the two sides were able in a spirit of urgency to pragmatically establish food safety as a negotiation issue, smoothly complete negotiations, and sign an agreement. Given the reality that there exist close and inseparable relations between both side in terms of their trade in food and raw materials, the two sides today signed an agreement to establish a contact window for cross-strait food safety, a prompt reporting mechanism, and an information exchange mechanism. Most importantly, the two sides agreed to establish a dispute arbitration mechanism, under which any side affected by any future cross-strait food safety incident that stems from the other side can go through a proper channel to seek assistance in handling related issues—including affairs related to injury compensation.

Regarding the prompt signing of the cross-strait food safety agreement, Minister Lai emphasized that public opinion in Taiwan has always placed very high expectations on dignity and security, especially in cross-strait relations. Over the years, there have been some prominent cross-strait cases that have sparked an intense reaction by the people of Taiwan and negatively affected cross-strait exchanges.

Minister Lai further indicated to Chairman Chen that the people of Taiwan often use the word "mutual" in the sense of mutual tolerance and understanding and putting oneself in the other person's shoes. Minister Lai expressed the belief that, by appropriately handling this specific incident, the two sides could gradually nurture a climate of "mutuality."

Minister Lai specifically indicated that both sides have a responsibility to uphold peace and security in the Taiwan Strait. Moreover, the international community recognizes the "military threat" as a factor undermining peace in the Taiwan Strait. It is therefore necessary to remove military threat so that the two sides can gradually establish an environment of "peace" and then make due contribution to the region.

During the meeting, Minister Lai mentioned the Taiwanese saying that, "a sweet potato is not afraid of falling to the ground and decaying, as long as it can sprout up and bring forth the next generation of sweet potatoes." In this same vein, the people on both sides have the right to survive and develop, and the Mainland side must respect the Taiwan people's right to survive and right to develop.

Minister Lai also stated that, based on the close economic and trade contacts across the Taiwan Strait, the two sides could discuss mutually beneficial approaches to normalizing cross-strait economic and trade relations, while also maximizing the gains for both sides. At the same time, the two sides should promote cross-strait economic and trade exchanges within a global context so as to make such relations an indispensable link in global economic growth.

Minister Lai further mentioned that, since his inauguration, President Ma has taken concrete actions to vigorously maintain the cross-strait status quo of "no unification, no independence, and no use of force." He has firmly adhered to this position. Minister Lai therefore expressed hope that the Mainland would seize this favorable opportunity and make the utmost effort to continue engaging in parity-based negotiations with Taiwan through the institutionalized channel so that cross-strait relations may continue to advance.

Minister Lai also spoke to Chairman Chen about the movie "Cape No. 7," which would be viewed as part of the delegation's visit itinerary the day after tomorrow. She noted that the movie is set in a small town on the Hengchun Peninsula. The people in the story are geographically very close, yet it is clear from the start that in their minds, the people are poles apart. After a series of conflicts, the people make up and finally rally behind a shared objective. In this way, the townspeople compose the most harmonious and beautiful song. This purity of emotion and simple happiness was only achieved through mutual respect and mutual tolerance. Minister Lai further noted that a straight line is the shortest distance between two coordinate points. This is also true of geographical distance. But geographical distance is not the same as psychological distance. Minister Lai expressed hope that cross-strait interactions could develop in the same spirit as "Cape No. 7." If the two sides can together follow a sequential order of exchanges, discuss ways for coexistence and co-prosperity, and narrow the psychological distance between the people, ultimately they will be able to compose a song of peace and stability.

Finally, Minister Lai asked Chairman Chen to convey her greetings to Wang Yi, director of mainland China’s Taiwan Affairs Office. Chairman Chen's birthday will be in two days, so Minister Lai also wished him a happy birthday.