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July 25, 2017

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Ex-AIT head talks on Taiwan's future, identity

TAIPEI -- Taiwan should liberalize economic ties with its major trading partners to remain competitive in the global economy, former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman Richard Bush said yesterday.

At a speech in Taipei, Bush highlighted a few challenges facing Taiwan in the 21st century, including how to remain competitive in an era of globalization and rapid technological change.

"Taiwan's economic future requires liberalizing its economic relations with all major trading partners," Bush said during a session of the two-day International Conference on the Centennial History of the Republic of China.

Taiwan's major trading partners include China, Japan, the European Union, the United States and Southeast Asia countries.

"Is Taiwan willing to remove the protectionist barriers that limit the market access of those trading partners?" the former AIT head asked.

Another question is whether Taiwan has the strength to achieve an innovation- and knowledge-based economy in the 21st century, Bush added.

Taiwan should also think about if it has the correct policies to ensure an adequate supply of "highly trained employees for the economic system," he said.

Other challenges facing Taiwan include a sound health care system for an aging population, as well as efforts to strengthen deterrence amid China's growing military threat, he said.

In addition, Bush touched on the issue of society's identification with the name "the Republic of China." Some people in Taiwan do not identify with the name and prefer to use Taiwan, he said.

The ruling Kuomintang refers to the R.O.C. as including Taiwan and mainland China, while the major opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) holds a pro-Taiwan independence stance.

The different degrees of identification with the R.O.C. would not be a problem if the island did not face the daunting challenge of a powerful China that "has clear goals concerning Taiwan," he added.

Bush said the DPP would be better able to defend Taiwan's core interests, "if it were to embrace the R.O.C. as a sovereign entity."

"A failure to agree on what aspects of Taiwan's sovereignty must be defended at all costs and which are relatively trivial will only handicap Taiwan's negotiating position (with China)," he added.

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