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Expert urges economic liberalization, cooperation with China

TAIPEI--The next three years will be a critical time for Taiwan, when it must decide if it will play a part in global economic integration or be left behind, an expert in political economics and cross-strait affairs said Saturday, urging what he called a “lifting of economic martial law.”

Cross-Strait Common Market Foundation chief executive Chen Te-sheng made his comments on Taiwan's economic future at a symposium on the challenges brought by China's rise. The event was hosted in Taipei by Yazhou Zhoukan (literally “Asia Weekly”), an international Chinese-language journal on global affairs.

Chen pointed out that timing is critical, as two regional free trade agreements Taiwan wants a part of will be formed in the next few years: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) that comprises most Southeast and East Asian countries along with Australia and New Zealand.

RCEP talks are expected to be completed in 2015, he said.

Facing an era in which a country's power is based on business and economic strength, Taiwan must offer more convenient services and lower operating costs than other countries, the expert said.

Equating economic reform to lifting martial law, he said that the government should rely on administrative orders to make reforms instead of letting important economic policies get caught up in the Legislature.

When government control of industry gets too tight, constricted businesses find themselves unable to move, Chen warned. The government's goal should be pushing for further openness to force enterprises to seek competitive reform, he suggested.

“Time is limited, and there's not much room for Taiwan to get ready,” he cautioned.

One ticking clock is the ever-increasing gap between Taiwan's and China's respective economic scales and the gradual replacement of cross-strait cooperation with cross-strait competition.

Producers of solar energy panels, LEDs and flat panels, for example, are more and more finding themselves outgunned by competitive Chinese rivals, he said.

He suggested Taiwan and China can combine their abilities to develop cross-strait brands and “make one plus one greater than two,” he said.

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