Ma: National confabs to focus on China, nuclear power
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-05-25 03:52 PM
Interviewed on the sixth anniversary of his first inauguration in 2008, President Ma Ying-jeou told Global Views Magazine that even if Taiwan attains membership in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) or the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), it cannot completely ignore its largest trading partner China. "No matter what party may be in power,” said Ma, “we must go down this road," meaning that he feels Taiwan has little choice but to continue working for closer ties between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Asked what is on the agenda for a national affairs conference on the economy and trade set for July, Ma said the conference will examine some of the most basic issues and challenges confronting Taiwan in the face of globalization. He noted that Taiwan has been shut out of most of the activities of the World Trade Organization (WTO), thus it must rely on bilateral economic and trade agreements to expand its presence in the global economy. The national conference will explore what strategies Taiwan should employ in following such a course.

Ma noted that China is likely to be seen as the main protagonist of both the TPP, which currently lists 12 member countries which represent some US$200 billion in trade with Taiwan or 34% of the island’s total trade, and of RCEP, whose member countries account for US$325 billion in trade with Taiwan or 57% of the island’s total trade.

At the same time, warned Ma, "Taiwan cannot completely ignore its largest trading partner in China," saying that regardless of which party might be in power in the future, Taiwan must continue on its current path toward closer relations.

Ma also pointed out that during the period from 2000 to 2008 when the DPP was in power, Taiwan experienced its fastest rate of growth in trade and investment with China. He said that in that eight-year span, trade with China grew by 2.8 times while investment grew by 3.8 times. Similarly, the share of Taiwan's exports going to China and Hong Kong rose from 24% in 2000 to 40% in 2008. It now stands at 39%, he added.

"We have now increased the absolute amount of trade with the mainland, but the percentage of overall trade has actually declined," said Ma. He attributed the slim drop in percentage to an increase in exports to Muslim countries of the Middle East, a trend which serves to reduce Taiwan’s dependence on China – something he termed very important for Taiwan's economy

Ma explained that the focus in the 4th National Energy Conference to be held in August will be to “Stop, look and listen” before embarking on the next phase of nuclear power development in Taiwan. He noted that at present construction on the nation’s Fourth Nuclear Power Plant has been suspended even though the project has not been abandoned.

In addition, currently there are a total of 435 nuclear power plants in operation in 31 countries around the globe with another 18 countries expected to start up nuclear power plants in the future. When that happens, said Ma, there could be more than 600 nuclear power plants operating worldwide.

The president noted that the nuclear power issue is very important to large enterprises and consortia in Japan, and it is also a key factor in energy independence in Japan. Japan suffered a trade deficit of 11.4 trillion yen last year, and Japanese expert Kenichi Ohmae told Ma recently that Japan spends more than 10 billion yen a day on imports of liquefied natural gas, totting up to some 3.6 trillion yen a year or about a third of the entire trade deficit. Ma noted that Japan’s nine electric power companies are all constantly hiking their rates these days, and companies in many industries are beginning to pull up stakes in Japan, largely because “electricity is no longer cheap and Japan is losing its competitive edge."

Ma added that he hopes that the upcoming conferences on the economy and trade as well as that on nuclear power, will provide opportunities for both ruling and opposition parties to get together with experts in industry and science to come together and take a hard look at the current situation in these and other areas.

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