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Lunch with Vice President Lai

The ECCT hosted a Premium Event lunch with Vice President Lai Ching-te in his capacity as the Democratic Progressive Party’s candidate for the 2024 presidential election. In his speech to members, titled “National Project of Hope – A smart, sustainable and new Taiwan”, VP Lai spoke about Taiwan-Europe relations, economic development and foreign policy.

He began by thanking ECCT Chairman Izzo and the ECCT for promoting cooperation between Taiwan and Europe, saying that Europe-Taiwan relations are now at an all-time high. This is reflected in record levels of trade and investment and people to people exchanges. He noted that many European leaders have also emphasized their opposition to any unilateral attempt to change the cross-strait status quo by force or coercion and expressed the view that stability in the Taiwan Strait is crucial to international security and prosperity.

The vice president went on to share his national policy blueprint, the “National Project of Hope”, which has a vision to unite all sectors of society to transform Taiwan into a place that is democratic and peaceful, innovative and prosperous and just and sustainable.

On cross-strait relations, Lai reiterated his pledge to “keep peace as our beacon and democracy as our compass in building a democratic and peaceful Taiwan”. In this regard, he said he would uphold President Tsai’s “Four Commitments,” which are: preserving Taiwan’s free and democratic constitutional system; the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China should not be subordinate to each other; resisting annexation or encroachment on Taiwan’s sovereignty; and that the future of the Republic of China must be decided by the Taiwanese people.

On top of these, VP Lai has proposed “four pillars of peace”, namely to: augment Taiwan’s self-defence capabilities, strengthen Taiwan’s economic security and technological advantages, establish partnerships with democratic nations, and establish stable and principled leadership on cross-strait relations to safeguard regional peace and stability.

To give hope to the youth, Lai pledged to provide comprehensive social support to empower youth from different backgrounds to pursue their dreams from birth until the age of 22. In addition, he would update the national childcare policy for children up to the age of six and a new version of the Long-term Care Plan, emphasizing diversity and equality.

Another aspect of Lai’s vision is to promote innovation-driven economic growth and create a smart and sustainable new Taiwan, which would champion an economic vision rooted in innovation-driven progress that advances digital transformation, green growth and inclusive development.

Given global geopolitical developments, Lai said that he wished to be a trustworthy trade partner by developing the five trusted industry sectors, namely semiconductors, Artificial Intelligence (AI), national defence, security and surveillance and telecommunications.

In the field of semiconductor industry, he stressed that Taiwan’s success in chip development wouldn’t be possible without the participation of other countries, such as equipment imported from the Netherlands, the United States, and Japan.

In the AI sector, the vice president said that Taiwan will continue to work on the development of trustworthy, safe and transparent AI technologies to help small and medium-sized businesses achieve digital transformation.

In the defence industry, Lai’s administration would develop programmes to domestically produce aircraft and naval vessels by extending President Tsai’s policy for self-sufficiency in national defence. Taiwan would also like to serve as a reliable partner in the global supply chain in the sensitive security and surveillance sector while, in the telecom sector, the focus will be on developing low-Earth orbit satellites, he said.

On the subject of energy, Lai said that transitioning to net zero is the global consensus as well as Taiwan’s goal. He also assured the audience that Taiwan’s energy supply will remain stable in the future. He thanked European companies involved in the renewable energy sector, which is helping Taiwan in the transition, although he admitted that progress is slower than hoped for. Aside from wind and solar power, Lai’s administration would promote geothermal power, hydrogen as a fuel, bioenergy, wave energy, and small-scale hydropower as well as energy-saving measures, implement energy storage technologies, and develop a more resilient power grid.

In terms of talent, building on the foundation of the Gold Card programme, the government plans to continue to expand Talent Taiwan, a national-level service centre for talent recruitment. In addition, Lai’s administration would enhance support for foreign students and improve the rights for foreign workers and provide a one-stop service that helps foreign nationals address concerns related to application processes, employment and school registration for their children, among others.

Looking ahead, Lai said that he wished to expand cooperation with Europe in renewable energy, biotechnology, 5G technology and semiconductors and would continue efforts towards a free trade agreement or bilateral investment agreement between Taiwan and Europe.

He concluded by calling for more cooperation to forge a stronger Taiwan-Europe partnership to shape a prosperous future.

In the Q&A session, VP Lai answered questions about cross-strait relations, talent, demographics, EVs and tourism. On the subject of addressing the low birth rate and talent shortage, Lai said that this required economic support for parents to alleviate their financial burden. This is the motivation for enhanced healthcare support for children under the age of six.

On the subject of attracting and retaining foreign talent, Lai said that there was more the government could do in terms of regulations and support to make life easier for foreigners to live in Taiwan.

On the subject of electric mobility, Lai reiterated the current administration’s target of switching entirely to electric vehicles by 2040, noting that progress is already advanced in switching to electric scooters, since all the major manufacturers are in the process of ramping up production in line with the goal. Meanwhile the Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Environment are revising regulations to support the development of EV charging infrastructure. He said he was therefore confident that the EV transition would accelerate in the near future.

Lai also expressed support for ways to increase the number of visitors to Taiwan.