01/26/2012, 00.00
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Ma Ying-jeou sets out to conquer China and his opponents

A free trade pact centred on the southern part of the island is in the works. Taiwan could be the hub of the Far East. Investments in the south could turn voters away from the opposition. The island’s presidential elections are Taiwan’s “best gift” to the mainland.
Kaohsiung (AsiaNews) – President Ma Ying-jeou said a free trade area would be set up soon in the south, as the government begins moves to joining a trans-Pacific free trade alliance.

“In order to follow the trend of regional economic integration, the government has been pushing hard for free trade in the hope that Taiwan can join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in 10 years,' Mr Ma said on Wednesday during a visit to a Buddhist temple in the southern city of Kaohsiung.

The TPT is a new regional trade pact within the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

Ma said that some free trade areas—which allow the tax-free flow of capital and goods—had to be set up on the island before the long-term goal of joining the TPP can be reached. This would allow Taiwan to become the hub for Asia-Pacific economies, taking advantage of its economic ties with the mainland, which Ma made possible.

However, the decision to centre the free trade area in the south is probably dictated by a desire to win over local voters. In the 14 January presidential elections, the president won thanks to the support of big business, but southern Taiwan remained a stronghold of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Speaking today in the southern city of Pingtung, the president said that although he got fewer votes than his presidential opponent Tsai Ing-wen, he would continue to promote sustainable development in the region.

He also noted that hundreds of millions of mainlanders followed the elections in Taiwan, which is the only part of China where a real democracy is in place. In his view, “this is the best gift from us to the mainland” for the New Year.

"The peaceful election, a sign of democracy taking roots and bearing fruit on the soil of a Chinese community, will make them feel that this will also happen on the mainland," he explained.
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