National Press Club

Taiwan's information minister emphasizes economics in cross-strait relations

July 18, 2011 | By Keith M. Hill | khill@bna.com

Improvements in cross-strait relations between the Taiwan and mainland China should focus on economic issues before political ones, Philip Y.M. Yang said at a July 15 Newsmaker.

Yang, Taiwan’s minister of government information since May, is the spokesman for Taiwan overseas and for Taiwan’s cabinet domestically.

Improved cross-strait relations gives Taiwan a “peace dividend” and affords the country greater opportunities in such areas as economic cooperation and combating crime, Yang said. From the standpoint of Taiwan’s interests, improved relations is a win-win strategy, he added.

The “tone of relations between Taiwan and mainland China constitutes one of the most meaningful aspects of geopolitical and security dynamics” in a key part of the world, Yang said. Taiwan’s policies seek to develop “mutual trust and support” in its relations with the United States, Japan and other countries, he noted.

The public and the government agree that the development of cross-strait relations should be oriented toward peace and prosperity, Yang said.

Even though China’s rapid economic and military rise poses challenges, Taiwan has been able to enter into 15 cross-strait agreements with the mainland so far, Yang told the audience.

For example, last year Taipei and Beijing signed the Cross-Straits Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) designed to reduce tariffs and commercial barriers between Taiwan and the mainland, Yang said. One of the goals of EFCA, he said, is “to help the people of Taiwan do business and boost their competitiveness.”

Taiwan and the mainland have also signed an agreement related to crime that allows Taiwan to extradite individuals who commit crimes in Taiwan and then flee to the mainland, Yang said.

Taiwan’s Viable Diplomacy policy has resulted in stable diplomatic relations with 23 countries and the development of substantive ties with countries with which Taiwan does not currently have diplomatic relations, including the United States, Yang said. The goal of this policy is to allow Taiwan to be a peacemaker rather than a troublemaker, he added.

Taiwan will not use military force to settle sovereignty disputes and does not seek unification talks, Yang said.

Yang noted that it will be impossible for Taiwan to match mainland China militarily, but the United States must help level the playing field. Taiwan's security relations with the United States must be based on mutual trust, he said.

Cross-strait peace is of utmost importance to East Asia security, he told the audience.