Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou said Jan. 7 that the central government is leaving no stone unturned in its efforts to improve Taiwan’s business climate and promote the nation as an Asian and global economic powerhouse.
“The era of Asia has arrived and Taiwan is capable of playing a more active and important role in a period brimming with challenges,” Ma said. “As long as we work hard and stick to the path of brave reforms, I am confident we can reinvigorate the economy and write a new chapter for Asia.”
The president made the remarks at the opening of the CommonWealth Economic Forum in Taipei City. Organized by Taipei City-based CommonWealth Magazine, the two-day event brought economists together from around the world to share views on global markets amid stagnant growth stemming from the EU sovereign debt crisis, concerns over the U.S. fiscal cliff and mainland China’s slowdown.
Participants included Lung Ying-tai, ROC minister of cultural affairs; Shih Yen-shiang, ROC minister of economic affairs; Hamid Biglari, vice chairman of Citigroup Inc.; D. C. Chien, chairman and CEO of IBM Greater China Group; Stan Shi, founder of Acer Group; and Hermann Simon, chairman of Simon-Kucher & Partners.
According to Ma, Taiwan’s economic strength and potential are illustrated by its No. 13 ranking out of 146 countries and territories in the latest Knowledge Economy Index released by the World Bank, ahead of Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.
Located in the heart of East Asia, Taiwan enjoys close economic ties with neighboring countries, the president said, adding that since he took office in May 2008, Taipei and Beijing have concluded 18 agreements and two consensuses, the most important being the Cross-Straits Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA).
Ma said that to bolster Taiwan’s economic momentum, the government is promoting a series of initiatives such as the Economic Power-up Plan, which will improve the local business climate, solidify core advantages and spur regional economic cooperation.
These policies have delivered positive results, Ma said, citing Taiwan’s 16th-place finish among 185 economies in the 2012 Ease of Doing Business poll released by the World Bank, up nine places from the previous year.
Evidence of Taiwan’s first-rate free-trader credentials and improving business climate include NT$40 billion (US$1.38 billion) in investment by 20 large-scale Taiwan companies based in mainland China or abroad under a government-backed program.
On solidifying core advantages, Ma said the government has a number of irons in the fire to drive R&D investment by the private sector. These include a program to transform 100 small and medium companies into hidden champions within three years and assist them in branding, intellectual property rights protection and marketing.
Developed by Hermann Simon, hidden champions refers to companies that are relatively small but highly successful in their respective areas.
Another top priority for the government is to ink more free trade agreements with major trading partners and secure inclusion in regional trade pacts such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, Ma said.
The TPP is a proposed trade agreement comprising negotiating partners Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the U.S. Other nations such as Japan and South Korea are also looking to join discussions on the nascent pact.
Driven by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the RCEP comprises 16 economies, including Australia, India, Japan and mainland China. If realized, the trading bloc will permit a greater flow of goods and services and encompass a combined economic output of US$20 trillion, or almost one-third of the global economy.
“All of these goals are in line with the government’s golden decade blueprint for building a muscular economy by further linking Taiwan with the Asia-Pacific region through a global deployment strategy,” Ma said.