Monday, July 13, 2009 | 12:30 PM EDT - 12:30 PM EDT

The National Committee welcomed Dr. Lai Shin-yuan, minister of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, for a roundtable discussion on July 13. Dr. Lai previously served as a National Security Council advisor in Chen Shui-bian’s administration and a legislator representing the Taiwan Solidarity Union party from 2005 to 2008. President Ma Ying-jeou crossed party lines to ask Dr. Lai to serve as head of the Mainland Affairs Council, the government office responsible for managing cross-Strait relations. She has overseen rapid progress: high-level talks between Taiwan and the mainland, increased passenger flights, and Taiwan’s participation in international institutions such as the World Health Assembly.

In her opening comments, Dr. Lai referred to the current moment as an historic window in which all parties involved should work to build peace and stability in the Strait and emphasized that improvement of cross-Strait relations is a gradual process during which both Taiwan and Mainland China must take steady steps to build mutual trust. Dr. Lai discussed the ways her office intends to increase Taiwan’s involvement in international institutions, focusing on high-level government talks with the Mainland conducted through proxy institutions. In this way, she said, Taiwan will be able to gain a larger stake in international affairs without challenging the balance it has struck with the leadership in Beijing.

National Committee president Stephen Orlins moderated the discussion, which included how developments across the Strait might affect Taiwan’s economic competitiveness abroad; the importance of removing trade and investment barriers to boost Taiwan’s competitiveness, and both the positive and negative aspects of the proposed free-trade agreement between Taiwan and China; and the need to balance economic independence and cooperative ties to the Mainland, while maintaining a clear set of goals for Taiwan’s involvement in the international community.