TAIPEI - Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou was sworn in Sunday for his second and last four-year term, as the opposition rallied against utility hikes and beef imports from the United States. In his inaugural speech to hundreds of dignitaries from the island and abroad Ma, who was re-elected in January, vowed to pursue free trade agreements with other countries and continue rapprochement policies with China. “We saw the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement come into effect in March of this year, and mainland China is about to begin negotiating a similar agreement with Japan and South Korea later this year,” Ma said.

“We must step up the pace of liberalisation; there can be no further delay. Only if Taiwan opens up to the world will the world embrace Taiwan,” he said, adding that the island would have to ditch its “protectionist mindset” and “revise outdated legislation”.

Taiwan already has free trade deals with Panama, Guatemala and Nicaragua and has been pushing to forge tie-ups with other major trading partners as it tries to avoid being marginalised by the growing number of regional economic blocs.

But talks have got bogged down, largely due to pressure from Beijing, which still considers the island part of its territory, even though it has governed itself since the end of a civil war in 1949.

The start of Ma’s second term was greeted with angry protests in which hundreds of demonstrators pelted eggs at a huge portrait of the head of state.