TAIPEI - On the final day of the National Conference on Economic and Trade Affairs, President Ma Ying-jeou underscored the need for the ruling party and the opposition to work together for the sake of Taiwan's economic future.
The Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement has led to a lot of debate, a fact that highlights the diversity and vibrancy of civic consciousness in Taiwan, the president said.
Differences of opinion are a staple of democratic societies, and it is these differences of opinion that indicate the deep concern different sectors of society have with regard to Taiwan's prospects, the president said.
In the face of fierce international competition, Taiwan cannot slacken its pace and the nation needs to find a way to reach a consensus and use that as a force for progress, which is why the National Conference on Economic and Trade Affairs was held, the president explained.
The president expressed a "strong hope" for the ruling party and the opposition to set aside their differences, work together with the people's happiness in mind and find feasible measures to boost the nation's economy.
The bargaining chips that Taiwan holds are limited, and there is no room for political strife or time for indecision, the president said.
Taiwan will be sidelined if it does not move forward, the president stressed, adding that his comments are not fear mongering but a description of reality.
China-Korea FTA, Cross-strait Service Trade Pact
Mainland China and South Korea are set to complete negotiations over a free trade agreement (FTA) by year-end, the president said. "Frankly speaking, time is no longer on our side."
Taiwan cannot stop mainland China and South Korea from signing an FTA, but through solidarity, pragmatic structural adjustments and widened participation in the global community, the nation can minimise the impact of the mainland China-South Korea FTA and catch up gradually, the president said.
According to the latest survey released by the Mainland Affairs Council, 63 per cent of the nation supports passing the cross-strait agreement supervisory act, and according to the National Development Council's poll, those who are in favour of the service trade agreement now exceed those who are against it, the president said.
Liberalization and globalisation will affect Taiwan, but Taiwan's response to these challenges ought not to be evasion but a willingness to face them head on, the president said.
The government needs to come up with complementary measures for industries that are likely to be affected, and it needs to review its tax and social welfare policies to minimise the impact, the president said.
The president added that he has instructed the executive branch to turn the various points of consensus reached during the meeting into action, and come up with a timetable and allocate the necessary budgets.