Mr. Peter Banko, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei, reflects on AmCham's role at the dawn of 2001..
President's page 2001: An Odyssey FOR Opportunity It is 2001 - a new year, and another one immortalized in literature and film we thought we would never reach. Big Brother did not show up in 1984, but in 2001, fiction and technology are more of a reality.
This is not the usual New Year. People keep reminding me that it is the official start of the new millennium, and that is what makes it so special. But there are other factors making this year more interesting than usual. The political leadership has changed in both the U.S. and Taiwan. And of course, the volatility of the U.S. economy will have significant repercussions in Taiwan.
So, should the Chamber keep to its standard list of New Year resolutions? Or should we reflect on the impact of this special date and time in history? I think the latter. Fiction aside, the facts stand for themselves. The U.S. has a new president, Taiwan has a new government, and both economies are on a high tech roller-coaster ride with HAL as the driver.
Like other U.S. expatriates on this side of the Pacific, I am relieved to see the mantle of the presidency of the United States has been passed, albeit unusually, to a new leader. While it might be presumptuous to offer Mr. Bush advice, the Chamber should make clear certain priorities regarding relations between the U.S. and Taiwan. What we need is a clear, consistent policy for both Taiwan and China. From the U.S. side, we need the following:
1. WTO: The U.S. government should support Taiwan's entry into the WTO as soon as possible on the merits of Taiwan's application, and encourage its trading partners to decouple any political linkages preventing Taiwan's accession.
2. Compliance: The U.S. should endeavor to ensure Taiwan's compliance with all WTO pre-accession agreements.
3. Participation: The U.S. should support Taiwan's membership or observer status in international economic, technical, and environmental organizations.
4. Transparency: The U.S. should promote transparency by increasing support for multilateral efforts to combat bribery, corruption, and unequal competition.
5. Cabinet Visits: The new U.S. cabinet should spend more time in Taiwan. Those officials with economic, technical, and cultural portfolios should visit Taiwan as part of their duties.
6. Stability: The U.S. has a national interest in stability in and around the Taiwan Strait. The U.S. must display sensitivity and consistency in its policies toward Taiwan and mainland China and avoid provoking or encouraging hardliners on either side.
As Taiwan prepares for the Lunar New Year, AmCham would encourage the Taiwan government to address these issues:
1. National Interest: Both the ruling and opposition parties should put aside partisan interests and concentrate on what is best for the country. The inability of the executive and legislative branches to cooperate could jeopardize WTO accession and its own economic development.
2. Rule of Law: Taiwan must promote the objective formulation and enforcement of clearly defined laws and regulations.
3. Openness: Taiwan should adopt a more open system of industry consultations, public hearings, and the publishing of proposed laws and regulations before they are adopted.
4. Direct Links: Taiwan should recognize that its future economic growth and competitiveness are impaired without direct cross-strait links and a continued ban could contravene the spirit of WTO. AmCham is pleased by the launch of the three "mini-links," but we hope to ensure equal access for foreign companies.
5. Cross-Strait Dialogue: Taiwan and China should resume dialogue and resolve their differences through peaceful negotiations and without compromising Taiwan's security. We encourage the U.S. to support Taiwan within the parameters of the Taiwan Relations Act.
6. Economy: The Taiwan government must pass service sector legislation to address current inadequacies that threaten investment opportunity.
7. Privatization: The government should recognize that quasi-privatization of banking, telecommunications, energy, and other key sectors provides potential abuse, exploitation, and forfeiture of gains in efficiency.
These are the issues AmCham's new Board of Governors will discuss and refine for the new millennium as we continue our odyssey in 2001.