Thursday, July 8, 2010

Weekly News Backgrounder from Taiwan's Government Information Office

News Backgrounder

July 7, 2010

I. ECFA Will Accelerate Asia’s Economic Integration: President Ma

After Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation and its mainland Chinese counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, signed the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) on June 29, the Cabinet approved the agreement and forwarded it to the Legislature for review on July 1.

At a press conference held the same day, entitled “New Inflection Point for Taiwan, New Era for Asia – Choosing Correctly at a Critical Juncture,” President Ma emphasized that the agreement will spur breakthroughs in three areas: allowing Taiwan to overcome its economic isolation; encouraging economic relations between Taiwan and mainland China toward reciprocity and cooperation; and accelerating Asia’s economic integration.

The ECFA, said the president, holds far-reaching implications for Taiwan’s future, which the international community will be examining with keen interest. It will further solidify cross-strait peace while bringing about structural changes in the Asia-Pacific regional economy, he opined.

The agreement could also prevent the nation from being economically marginalized, the president said. It provides a systematic framework for mutually beneficial cooperation across the Taiwan Strait that will create more business and job opportunities.

The agreement, he added, will speed up economic integration in Asia, making Taiwan a more valuable asset in the eyes of the Asia-Pacific and the world. It has the potential to transform Taiwan into a springboard for enterprises around the world to enter mainland Chinese markets.

Following up on the signing of the ECFA, the Council for Economic Planning and Development (CEPD) will organize business fairs to solicit foreign investment in 12 focal industries in Taiwan. From October to December, the CEPD will make presentations in Japan, Singapore, the United States and Europe.
II. World Strongly Supports Cross-Strait Pact

The international community has voiced its support for the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), signed on June 29 between Taiwan and mainland China, for its promise to bolster stability in Asia and increase trade. Foreign nations and bodies shared their hopes for cross-Strait interactions to continue expanding.

On June 29, a U.S. Department of State official said, “The United States welcomes the increased dialogue and interaction,” and hopes that relations between the two sides “will continue to expand and develop.” The cross-strait economic pact, the speaker continued, would help to increase trade and lead to a more stable Asia.

Catherine Ashton, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, issued a statement on June 30 affirming that the signing of the ECFA “contributes significantly to stability and security in East Asia.” The statement went on to read, “The European Union believes that the expansion of cross-Strait economic relations has a potential also to benefit the development of its already significant trade and investment links in East Asia.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, meanwhile, said on June 30 that the Japanese government welcomed the ECFA, and that it looks for Taiwan and the mainland to solve their problems peacefully through direct dialogue.

“The conclusion of the ECFA will further enhance economic cooperation between both sides and pave the way for the normalization of the cross-Strait economic relationship,” said Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on June 30. “It will,” the ministry continued, “also be helpful in promoting regional economic integration.”

In a July 5 interview with Taiwan’s Central News Agency, Director-General Pascal Lamy of the World Trade Organization (WTO) affirmed that the ECFA with mainland China was a major achievement by Taiwan in meeting its overall trade objectives. This agreement would help improve cross-Strait relations and ensure Taiwan’s industrial competitiveness, while also furthering its economic integration with the world and attracting foreign investment.

The WTO Secretariat’s Trade Policy Review on Taiwan pointed out that a cross-Strait economic agreement would help improve relations across the Taiwan Strait and could prove beneficial to Taiwan in signing free trade agreements (FTAs) with its other major trading partners. Taiwan will then be better equipped to meet the competition created by FTAs signed between other Asian nations.

III. Taiwan’s Digital Economy Ranking Rises

Taiwan has again come into the international spotlight for its information and communications technology (ICT) development. It was listed at No. 12, four spots higher than the previous year, in the 2010 digital economy rankings released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) on June 29. The rankings are viewed as an indicator of economic competitiveness.
The EIU pointed out that Taiwan’s rise in ranking is attributable to its advantage in broadband technology, which, together with its sound legal and enhanced social environments, makes it an exemplary model for applying digital technology to creating economic and social benefits. This development has become increasingly common in Asia, where such leading “digital economies” as Taiwan and South Korea are outperforming Europe and North America in broadband quality.

EIU derives the annual rankings from surveys on the development of ICT in major economies, evaluating their network infrastructure and Internet use for social and economic purposes. It is hoped that both individuals and enterprises can, in a sound regulatory framework and through investment in communications infrastructure, contribute to increasing efficiency and prosperity. The “digital economy” benchmark is a reflection of how the use of ICT ultimately contributes to the world’s overall economic and social progress.

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