President Tsai Ing-wen attended a Lunar New Year reception for representatives of Taiwanese firms in mainland China on the morning of February 21. The president stated that 2018 will be a key year for improving Taiwan's overall economy, and that the government will work with all parties to accelerate industrial transformation and upgrading, and create a new vision for the future of Taiwan's economy. She also stressed that Taiwan will fulfill its responsibility to safeguard regional security and maintain stable, consistent, and predictable cross-strait relations. The president is confident that the leaders on both sides of the Taiwan Strait all recognize their responsibility and have the wisdom to value the cumulative mutual achievements of the past several decades of cross-strait interaction.
The following is a translation of President Tsai's remarks:
Today is the first day back from Lunar New Year, and I'm happy to see friends old and new from the Taiwanese business community in mainland China, and domestic industry leaders. On behalf of the government, I want to wish everyone a belated happy new year.
In the Year of the Dog, let's hope that Taiwan will just keep getting better, and that our friends doing business in mainland China will prosper.
The year 2018 will be a key year for improving Taiwan's economy. The end of the new year holiday marks the start of renewed efforts, with the government and people working together to speed up industrial transformation and upgrading and forge Taiwan's future economic prosperity.
Since my inauguration on May 20 of 2016, the government has made every effort to overcome long-standing domestic economic doldrums and stagnation, and restore people's economic confidence. .
And we've begun to see results. Economic growth has exceeded expectations two years in a row. Last year, total exports were the second highest in history. Unemployment reached a 17-year low. And for only the second time in history, the Taiwan Stock Exchange closed above 10,000 points on the final trading day before Lunar New Year.
Of course, the global economic recovery played a role in Taiwan's outstanding economic performance. More important, we took advantage of that upturn by promoting structural transformation of the economy to boost overall industrial competitiveness and domestic economic momentum, remove long-standing industrial development bottlenecks, and overcome stagnating economic and salary growth.
The government is also implementing a "5+2 industrial innovation program" to spark innovation, starting with key success factors and then branching out to accelerate industrial transformation and upgrading. We'll also do everything possible to eliminate investment barriers, encourage greater private-sector investment, and implement our Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program to expand overall domestic demand and invest in Taiwan's future. We'll also link economic and industrial development to raise labor and capital productivity so that everyone can share in the fruits of economic growth.
This kind of massive economic transformation requires a concerted national effort. Over the past year or so, we've built a firm foundation. So now, we need to turn restored confidence in the economy into a force for action so that together, the public and private sectors can re-engineer industry, and create a new vision for Taiwan's economic future.
I know that Taiwanese doing business in mainland China care about Taiwan's overall economic development. I also know that many Taiwan-invested firms there are facing their biggest challenges in decades.
Regardless whether Taiwan-invested enterprises in mainland China intend to transform and upgrade there, pursue opportunities in countries targeted by our New Southbound Policy, or return and invest in Taiwan, the government is committed to doing everything within its means to provide the necessary assistance, aid, guidance, and services.
I'm very aware that many people running businesses in mainland China have a strong desire to come back to Taiwan to work with us. So today, I want to extend a special invitation to all of you to do just that. We welcome your investments. If you want to make a contribution to your homeland, we await you with open arms. We welcome you to return home, and be part of our national efforts to strengthen the economy.
The domestic market has numerous investment opportunities. The "5+2 industrial innovation program" reflects the industry trends of the future—the Internet of Things, biotech and pharmaceutical industries, green technology, smart machinery, and national defense industries. There are many investment opportunities in these new, high value-added industries.
The government is improving the investment climate by liberalizing laws and regulations and encouraging innovation. We've amended the Statute for Industrial Innovation, for example, to give innovation capital more flexibility. The Fundamental Science and Technology Act was amended to encourage closer cooperation between industry and academia. To create an economic environment that actively supports industrial development, we've also taken steps to retain and recruit talent, amend the Company Act, resolve the "five shortages" (land, electricity, water, labor, and talent), and promote comprehensive tax reform.
It's very gratifying that some Taiwan firms operating in mainland China have decided to come back and invest in Taiwan to develop all kinds of goods and services including electronic payments, shoe manufacturing, hardware products, and long-term care. These investments are a testament to the commitment I just made. The government isn't just welcoming you to come back and invest. We'll also help you with land, technology, and regulatory issues to make your investment go smoothly.
I also want to ask the Straits Exchange Foundation to continue looking after the needs of Taiwan-invested firms operating in mainland China that want to return to Taiwan and invest. I also want the government agencies involved to give their full support so that every firm that wants or needs to invest in Taiwan knows that the government is sincere, and doing everything possible to help them. Taiwan is more than just your home. It's also the biggest supporter of all Taiwan firms operating in mainland China.
People involved with Taiwan-invested enterprises in mainland China aren't the only ones concerned about the peaceful development of cross-strait relations. All our citizens are focused on this issue. I've always said that cross-strait relations are critical to regional peace, stability, and development. The promise I made on May 20 of 2016—to show maximum goodwill—is the strongest commitment to cross-strait peace, stability, and development.
In dealing with the latest developments in cross-strait relations, we have consistently maintained that: "Our commitments will not change, our goodwill will not change, and we will not revert to the old path." Taiwan will fulfill its responsibility to safeguard regional security and maintain stable, consistent, and predictable cross-strait relations
The future of cross-strait relations depends on whether the two sides can show goodwill and interact in a positive manner. Several tourists from mainland China were injured or killed in the earthquake that struck in Hualien County just before Lunar New Year. Where it comes to humanitarian aid, there is no gap between the two sides of the strait. We did everything possible. We feel for the victims and their families as we feel for our own, and spared no effort to lend support and help deal with the aftermath.
I also want to specially thank the many Taiwanese doing business in mainland China who showed their concern by making generous donations after the Hualien earthquake to help those affected get their lives back to normal as soon as possible. Your warmth and good deeds show the true spirit of brotherly love for your country and your countrymen.
The Lunar New Year we recently celebrated is the most important holiday of the year on both sides of the strait. People-to-people contacts and media reports about our similar customs really do close the gap between people on both sides.
During the Lunar New Year many Taiwanese businesspeople working in mainland China returned home, and many friends there came to Taiwan as tourists, showing just how close our economic and social interactions are.
These are the cumulative results of the past several decades of cross-strait interaction. I believe the leaders on both sides of the Taiwan Strait recognize their responsibility and have the wisdom to value these hard-won achievements.
As we begin a new year, once again let me wish all our fellow citizens doing business in mainland China great success. May you all enjoy the best of health, and the Republic of China enjoy continued prosperity.