The signing of a service trade pact between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan will benefit Taiwan's economy, former Chief Economist and Senior Vice President of the World Bank Justin Yifu Lin said on Wednesday.
"Those who are truly concerned with the future of Taiwan need to think of what's beneficial to Taiwan's economic development," said Lin, who added that in the context of a rapid process of global economic integration, Taiwan has lagged behind by quite a few steps.
The economist's comments, made at a panel discussion at the ongoing Boao Forum for Asia in south China's Hainan Province, come amid Taiwan students' protest against the pact. They fear massive job losses and mainland domination of key industries, despite local authorities' insistence the pact is vital for the island's economic liberalization.
Born in Taiwan and speaking from his life experiences and thinking over the past 40 years, Lin said that talks on any other subjects will be in vain if Taiwan failed to grasp the opportunity for economic development.
"Free trade is a global trend and Taiwan should not be marginalized," he said, worrying that Taiwan's economic growth may stagnate for long periods, as Japan's did since the 1990s, if it does not facilitate the multiple development opportunities across the Strait.
As a follow-up to the 2010 Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, the service trade agreement aims to open up 80 of the mainland's service sectors to Taiwan and 64 Taiwanese sectors to the mainland.
The mainland considers the pact mutually beneficial as the economies of the mainland and the island are highly complimentary. The service sector contributes more than 70 percent of Taiwan's GDP, whereas the mainland has a strong manufacturing base but records a trade deficit in its service industry.
Lin said that the mind-sets of Taiwan's youths may take time to change; nevertheless, he suggested they cross the Strait more often in order to better understand the mainland.
(Xinhua News Agency April 9, 2014)