Chairman Ko x ECCT Luncheon --- Sustainability Our Common Language


Taipei, September 4, 2023 – Ko Wen-je, Chairman of Taiwan People's Party, delivered a compelling speech at the "ECCT Premium Event Luncheon" organized by the European Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan on the 4th of September. Accompanied by his campaign manager, Shan-shan Huang, and Taiwan People's Party Secretary-General Tom Tai-Chu Chou, Ko Wen-je addressed the audience; among them were ECCT Chairman Giuseppe Izzo, Vice-Chairman H. Henry Chang, CEO Freddie Höglund, and over 50 chamber members, with the theme, "Sustainability: Our Common Language," sharing his views on energy-related issues.


The luncheon, hosted by Giuseppe Izzo, Chairman of the European Chamber of Commerce, welcomed Ko Wen-je as an honored guest. Mr. Izzo humorously acknowledged the transition from addressing Ko as "Mayor Ko" to "Chairman Ko," hinting at the possibility of calling him "President Ko" in the near future. He expressed great anticipation for Ko's foreign policy and energy initiatives.


Ko's speech, centered on the theme "Sustainability: Our Common Language," began by highlighting his tenure as the Mayor of Taipei. During his time in office, he led Taipei City to become the first locality in Taiwan to pass a Net Zero Emission Autonomous Ordinance, setting the standard for nationwide emissions reduction efforts by 2050. He also emphasized his commitment to making Taipei City's public buses and government vehicles 100% electric by 2030. Ko underlined the significance of the economic partnership between Europe and Taiwan, with the European Union accounting for a quarter of Taiwan's Foreign Direct Investment (FDI); he then humorously remarked that European investment was the reason he is having lunch with everyone here today, eliciting hearty laughter from the audience.


Regarding energy policy, Ko addressed the complex issue of nuclear energy. He recognized the improvement in safety measures in the aftermath of events like Chernobyl and Fukushima while acknowledging the inherent risks of nuclear power. However, he cautioned against hasty decisions to phase out nuclear energy at the expense of rushing to adopt renewable energy fully. Ko proposed a temporary transition toward a "clean energy" future that combines both nuclear and renewables, and only when the infrastructure for renewables is adequate should we gradually phase out nuclear energy. Achieving Taiwan's goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, he stressed, requires a pragmatic approach. Ko Wen-je reaffirmed his stance on nuclear energy policy, stating that Nuclear Power Plants Two and Three should continue their operations, ensuring a stable energy source for our nation. However, Nuclear Power Plant Four must undergo a comprehensive inspection to assess its safety and operational viability as soon as possible. Only after a thorough evaluation can we determine its future.


In his remarks on cross-strait relations, Ko advocated for the "5 Mutuals" principle to reduce hostility and minimize the risk of conflict. He cited "mutual empathetic understanding" as a concept that transcends simple English vocabulary for its reflection of cultural nuances. Ko firmly believes that "Taiwan understands China better than the world does, and it also understands the world better than China does." This conviction underscores his vision of Taiwan as a pivotal bridge for communication between the global community and China. For his vision for diplomatic relations, he highlighted the importance of both deterrence and communication strategies, emphasizing that Taiwan cannot rely solely on others for its future security. In addition to his deterrence strategy, Ko Wen-je underscores the importance of "communication" and asserts that "it is precisely because of the strained relations that dialogue is all the more essential." Ko believes that communication between Taiwan and China should proceed gradually, with cultural and sports exchanges leading the way, followed by economic cooperation and, finally, political discussions. Despite the current challenges in political-level exchanges, he emphasizes that progress can be achieved "step by step." To conclude his address, Ko reiterated that the European Union (EU) is a dependable partner for Taiwan. He expressed Taiwan's willingness to abide by international rules and become an integral part of the global community and encouraged collective efforts toward these goals.


Following his keynote address, Ko engaged in a lively question-and-answer session with European Chamber of Commerce members. He was asked to elaborate on his strategies for improving the English proficiency of government officials. Responding to a query about enhancing the English proficiency of government personnel, Ko shared his track record of promoting bilingual education during his tenure as Mayor of Taipei. He emphasized his commitment to expanding the pool of bilingual educators and developing relevant teaching materials. By the time he completed his term in 2022, 78 out of 236 schools in Taipei City had adopted bilingual education programs. Drawing from this successful experience, Ko expressed his aspiration to replicate this initiative nationwide should he be elected president. When asked about his perspective on the offshore wind energy policy of the current administration and areas for potential improvement, Ko emphasized the importance of respecting market dynamics. He highlighted that any call for localization in energy production should be substantiated with sound reasoning. Furthermore, he conveyed his belief in the government's ability to understand industry trends, asserting that it should align with market rules.


When asked about attracting foreign talent to Taiwan, Ko acknowledged the current challenges in the immigration system, which limits job mobility for foreign workers. He emphasized the need for legal reforms to better align with the country's economic needs. To illustrate his point, he cited Singapore's approach, which levies per-capita taxes on foreign workers based on occupation. This approach ensures not only the capacity to accommodate foreign workers but also effective management of the number of foreign laborers in each industry.


Addressing concerns in the medical sector, a representative from Novartis, a multinational pharmaceutical corporation that invests billions annually in Taiwan, expressed concerns about the slow introduction of new drugs into the Taiwanese market. This delay could impact the parent company's decision regarding whether to include Taiwan in the first batch of calls for new drug launches. Ko Wen-je announced plans to hold a policy press conference this Wednesday to unveil his healthcare policy and blueprint. Regarding the policy for introducing new drugs to the market, Ko advocates for a balanced approach that does not hinder market development in the name of universal healthcare access. He proposes that once a new drug obtains regulatory approval, it should be made available in the private market. The application process for inclusion in the national health insurance coverage can proceed gradually while maintaining transparency and openness. Ko emphasizes that hospitals should publicly disclose their private market pricing. Addressing the issue of insufficient investment in healthcare in Taiwan, Ko highlighted that the government currently allocates 6.6% of the GDP for healthcare, with 3.3% dedicated to health insurance. He envisions a short-term goal of increasing healthcare investment to 8% of GDP but suggests a gradual approach over the years.