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Sep 10, 2010, No. 070

  • Date:2010-09-10

Lai Shin-yuan: The government's Mainland policy is to extend cross-strait rapprochement to international relations and to join in promoting the prosperity and development of the East Asian region

Starting from September 9, Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister Lai Shin-yuan made a five-day visit to Europe at the invitation of the organizers of the 2010 Asia-Pacific Security Forum and the European Parliament-Taiwan Friendship Group. During her stay, Minister Lai called on think tanks and other institutions and agencies in Brussels, Belgium to give speeches and exchange views with scholars participating in the forum from the United States, Japan and Europe. She also will present a speech to the Belgium overseas Chinese community on the evening of September 12 (local time) and visit the European Parliament to speak to parliament members on the morning of September 14.

The MAC stated that, Minister Lai’s speech delivered at 1:00 p.m. today at the 2010 Asia-Pacific Security Forum was her first public activity on this visit to Europe. The Forum has been held once annually in rotation in Taiwan, the United States, Europe, Japan and other countries since 1996. It is organized and joined by internationally influential think tanks and academic groups. Views presented at the Forum often serve as important references for the United States, Europe, Japan and other countries in the process of drafting foreign policies. This year's forum was jointly held by the Pacific Forum of the U.S. Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Philippine Institute for Strategic and Development Studies, France's Asia Center, Belgium's European Institute for Asia Studies, and the Taiwan Institute for National Policy Research. Participating scholars included former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas J. Christensen, President of the Pacific Forum Dr. Ralph A. Cossa, and European Institute for Asia Studies Chair Ludo Cuyvers. The MAC stated that this important international occasion offers an excellent opportunity to explain to the international community the ROC government’s Mainland policy, exchange views and seek support from other countries. Minister Lai thanked the organizers for the invitation as well as the Taipei Representative Office in the EU and Belgium for arranging the visit.

Minister Lai opened her speech by noting that regional economic cooperation is a major world trend. The United States, Japan, mainland China, and ASEAN together form the main force of development in the Asia-Pacific region. However, due to the past cross-strait political deadlock, Taiwan has been absent from this trend until President Ma Ying-jeou came into office, who has made the stability of cross-strait relations a positive force in promoting peace in the Asia-Pacific region. Minister Lai emphasized that, over the past more than two years, the right policy course and the strong support from nearly 80% of the Taiwan people for institutionalized cross-strait negotiations have enabled President Ma's Mainland policy to reach achievements of peace rarely recorded in the history of Asia. The government will strive to make this remarkable feat a lasting chapter of history.

Minister Lai briefed the nearly one hundred think tank scholars attending the conference on the ROC government's achievements in promoting its Mainland policy. She said that during the two-year-and-three-month period since the two sides resumed institutionalized negotiations in June 2008 based on the "1992 Consensus," the ROC government and the Mainland side held five high-level cross-strait talks and signed 14 agreements, including the Cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) and the Cross-Strait Agreement on Intellectual Property Right Protection and Cooperation signed on June 29 this year. The fruit of these negotiations has been to create a mutually beneficial relationship of cooperation between the two sides. The ECFA, whose signing has attracted the world's attention the most, is an economic cooperation agreement that conforms to the basic principles of the WTO, embodies cross-strait characteristics, and will be implemented in phases.

Minister Lai emphasized that the ECFA is a cross-strait bilateral agreement actively promoted by the Taiwan government in consideration of the trend of economic globalization as well as to seriously face up to the reality of China's economic rise, as part of an overall economic strategy of "strengthening Taiwan, linking into the Asia- Pacific, and positioning globally." Since mainland China already is Taiwan's biggest trade partner, the government must establish institutionalized economic and trade relations with the Mainland in order to make cross-strait economic and trade exchanges stable and predictable, to protect foreign enterprises and Taiwan businesses with operations on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, and to further attract foreign investment to Taiwan. Secondly, due to the signing of free trade agreements among Asian countries, Taiwan products are directly faced with a competitive environment of high tariffs. Therefore, the signing of the ECFA is to help Taiwan begin building an environment for fair trade competition. At the same time, the signing of the ECFA will further strengthen the stable development of cross-strait relations, improve cross-strait relations, be conducive to getting other governments to consider signing economic cooperation agreements with Taiwan, and further promote the linkage of Taiwan's economy with the world.

Minister Lai also put special emphasis on that the ECFA was signed on the basis of mutually beneficial cross-strait talks and is in line with the principle of proportionality. It is entirely unrelated to sovereignty and political issues and is a specific embodiment of the two sides "putting aside political disputes" in the course of institutionalized cross-strait negotiations. Not one single word among the 16 articles in the five chapters of the ECFA contains any political conditions or political commitments. The sovereignty of the Republic of China absolutely is not harmed at all.

Minister Lai further noted that since the government announced its promotion of the ECFA in February last year, the Agreement has attracted close attention and positive assessment from international media. On August 5 this year, Taiwan and Singapore announced that they would begin discussions on the feasibility of signing an economic cooperation agreement. In July this year, the WTO Secretariat stated that Taiwan can use the ECFA as a basis for signing free trade agreements with other trading partners, indicating that the government is correct in its course of signing the ECFA to participate in regional economic integration and promote regional prosperity.

Minister Lai also emphasized that the ECFA will regulate economic and trade activities across the Strait based on universally followed game rules. Therefore, the ECFA 's existence will greatly reduce the likelihood of armed conflicts across the Taiwan Strait. It also is the key to turning confrontation and war into peace and prosperity, as well as an important milestone in institutionalizing cross-strait economic and trade relations and strengthening the foundation of mutual trust between the two sides.

Minister Lai further indicated that, international participation apart from the economic and trade arena also is a course that the ROC government is actively striving to promote. Therefore, over the past more than two years, the government has continued to develop its foreign relations in various areas, including resuming mutual trust and cooperation with the United States and Japan, as well as consolidating relations with the European Union. Concrete results in this regard include Health Minister’s participation in the World Health Assembly (WHA) for two consecutive years, Taiwan's joining in the Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA) under WTO, and the granting of visa-free treatment to Taiwan visitors by the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Ireland.

Minister Lai finally highlighted that cross-strait relations and Taiwan's foreign relations are complementary. The Mainland policy of the ROC government is aimed not just at improving cross-strait relations. Adopting a global mindset, the government seeks to establish an environment of peaceful and stable regional security, extend cross-strait rapprochement to international relations, and join in promoting prosperity and development in East Asia. Therefore, maintaining Taiwan's sound and orderly foreign relations and benign cross-strait interactions, as well as continuing to build a mechanism for mutual trust between the two sides, are important keys to ensuring peace and security across the Taiwan Strait and stability and development in the Asia-Pacific region. These also are policy objectives that the government will continue to promote. The situation in the Taiwan Strait has gone from the brink of war to today's peace and stability within just over two years. This is a right path—one the ROC government will resolutely continue to take until an irreversible and solid foundation for cross-strait peace is established.