Farmers’ representatives yesterday expressed mixed views about the new Taiwan-New Zealand economic cooperation agreement, while the government said it has contingency measures in place.
The agreement was signed between New Zealand and the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu on Economic Cooperation (ANZTEC) on Wednesday, and aims to remove all trade barriers between the two nations by 2025.
Yang Ching-mao (楊清茂), executive director of Fusing Community Development Association in Taitung County, said farmers will still enjoy advantages even after the ANZTEC takes effect.
“Taiwanese agricultural products match local consumers’ tastes and they have had great product loyalty for a long time,” Yang told the Taipei Times by telephone.
Yang, a resident of Ruisui Village (瑞穗) in Hualien County which is nationally renowned for its milk products, said Taiwanese milk product makers’ advantages include special cattle breeding skills, unpolluted farming space for cattle and experience in marketing their products domestically.
“If an open market is to be beneficial to the whole country, farmers have to catch global trends and remain competitive,” Yang said. “Only high-quality products are unbeatable in the market.”
Minister of Economic Affairs Chang Chia-juch (張家祝) on Wednesday told reporters that Taiwan will reduce its tariffs to zero on 479 agricultural imports from New Zealand over the next 12 years in a bid to cushion the potential impact on local farmers.
Yao Liang-yi (姚量議), a research fellow at the Taiwan Rural Front, said this arrangement would still likely to prompt a negative “substitution effect” on Taiwanese agricultural goods, causing local products to be crowded out amid the increased choices for consumers. Yao said the kind of free-trade agreements the government intends to sign are likely to harm farmers.
“Things could get worse if the government does not take quick action to help farmers,” he said.
However, Hsiao Tung-chung (蕭柊瓊), deputy director of the Council of Agriculture’s Department of International Affairs, said the government has prepared complete contingency measures to help farmers confront challenges brought by the agreement.
Hsiao said the government intends to educate farmers on product quality and management efficiency enhancement after the agreement takes effect.
“As 470 Taiwanese agricultural items will be opened to compete against New Zealand imports, the government remains cautious about the ANZTEC, but confident that things can all be kept under control,” Hsiao said.
The government has budgeted NT$9.4 billion (US$314.6 million) to a damage fund for next year to help affected farmers, according to the council.