New premier to deal with two thorny issues

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 February, 2012, 12:00am


Taiwan's new prime minister, Sean Chen, has ordered the establishment of two task forces to deal with the European debt crisis and controversial imports of US beef.

The orders were issued almost immediately after Chen (pictured) and his cabinet were sworn in yesterday, reflecting his determination to resolve two immediate challenges to the government's popularity.

After a swearing-in ceremony at the Presidential Office in Taipei, Chen took the helm of the 47-member cabinet from former prime minister Wu Den-yih, who was elected vice-president last month.

Chen vowed that he and his cabinet would waste no time in working to achieve public prosperity by pushing for economic transformation, which Taiwan's mainland-friendly president, Ma Ying-jeou, has described as the key to improving 'gross national happiness'.

'Taiwan needs a new round of economic transformation so that not only can its low-cost, labour-intensive industrial structure become technologically innovative and culturally creative, but its service industry can also become exportable,' Chen said.

He said Taiwan needed to put more emphasis on the service industry, which would help create wealth. And he said his vision of economic transformation was to turn the island's products from being 'made in Taiwan' to 'made by Taiwan' and 'designed by Taiwan' - which would allow the public to share benefits.

Taiwanese voters named the ever-widening wealth gap as one of their chief gripes against the Ma government during its first four-year term.

Chen said he would hold a meeting on Saturday for all cabinet departments and agencies to exchange views on how to improve government performance and increase understanding of public needs.

Chen said he had ordered the establishment of a global-economic-prospects task force to deal with the debt problems in Europe that have hurt export-oriented Taiwan. He said this month and next month were critical periods because many European bonds were about to mature.

On Taiwan's dispute with the United States over the import of US beef containing the leanness-enhancing food additive ractopamine, banned in Taiwan, Chen said another task force led by new Council of Agriculture chairman Chen Bao-ji would address the issue.

He dismissed local speculation that the Ma government had agreed to allow the imports in order to repay Washington for what the opposition camp in Taiwan criticised as 'unfair support' for Ma's campaign for a second term. That support included backing Ma's cross-strait engagement policy.

Shortly after Ma was re-elected last month, the US administration renewed pressure on Taiwan to revise its zero-tolerance regulation on ractopamine so that beef containing the additive could be exported to Taiwan - a move likely to boost US President Barack Obama's prospects in his own re-election campaign later this year.