DPP Candidate Tsai Speaks to AmCham

Speaking at an AmCham Taipei membership luncheon on October 23, Tsai Ing-wen, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate in the upcoming presidential election, reminded attendees of the “mutual interests” and “shared values” tying the United States and Taiwan, identified the United States as Taiwan’s “most important economic partner,” and called U.S.-Taiwan relations the “cornerstone for peace and stability” in the region.

Tsai, whose poll numbers are running well ahead of her opponent, Eric Chu of the Kuomintang (KMT), also assured the audience that if elected she will maintain the status quo in cross-Strait relations – a key concern for the global and local business communities. She also confirmed her party’s commitment to seeking second-round inclusion in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade group, calling it essential for Taiwan’s future economic growth. Tsai called the TPP “a template for Taiwan to make progress in our internal reform by way of liberalizing and making improvements.” Efforts to gain TPP accession will help Taiwan “adhere to international standards” and “streamline legal infrastructure and bureaucratic practices,” she said.

Reiterating her desire to move Taiwan away from its longstanding “export-driven, manufacturing-based growth model,” which she considers outdated, Tsai blamed the Ma Ying-jeou administration for doing little to promote innovation and creativity in the economy. She further criticized Taiwan’s overdependence on a “single market,” not named but easily identified as China, the destination for nearly 40% of Taiwan’s exports. She pledged to transform Taiwan into a “Hub of Innovation and Development for the Asia-Pacific.”

Tsai promised a more proactive government that “will shoulder the responsibility and take the lead in Taiwan’s comprehensive industrial transformation and advancement,” including the “development and planning of industrial strategies, assistance to cross-border investment and cooperation, acquisition of advanced technology, and reform of laws and regulations, especially those related to the capital market.” More specifically, she cited the DPP’s plan for “Five Major Innovation Projects” that would focus on such areas as green energy development, the Internet of Things, biotechnology, and defense industries.

In response to a question on how to reform a beleaguered national pension system, Tsai said that as president she would convene a national conference to discuss the issue with the common goal of ensuring that pensions don’t “become a burden on the next generation.” Also during the Q&A period, she said that transparency and public participation in policymaking would be hallmarks of her administration, with her leadership “leading the public towards consensus.” Regarding relations between the executive and legislative branches, she said she would ensure that legislators receive the benefit of greater resources, including more staffing assistance, so that they are able to do their jobs more effectively and “make the right decisions.”