It also would not hurt to learn from the global marketing of New Zealand kiwifruit and Norwegian salmon.
In order to expand the export market for Taiwanese agricultural products, the government should use the agreement to implement a planned selling program directed at New Zealand for outstanding Taiwanese agricultural products such as mango, pineapple, wax apples, tea, Taiwanese tilapia, striped bass, mullet, Phalaenopsis orchids and Oncidium orchids.
It should take such concrete measures instead of relying on fuzzy slogans saying that the agreement will not have an impact on the Taiwanese market and farmers, that there is no need to fear competition and that it will help promote an upgrade of Taiwan’s agricultural industry.
There is research to show that by signing the ANZTEC, the total production value of Taiwan’s agricultural industry will shrink by about NT$4 billion and that livestock products will bear the brunt of the impact.
Using economic models to make deductions and estimates, making too many assumptions and leaving too much space for intervention, frequently produces results that differ greatly from the real world.
Since this is the case, it could well be that although losses don’t seem to be particularly high, they could be concentrated in a small number of industries.
In addition to its having a substantive effect, we also must not neglect the psychological impact of the ANZTEC agreement. It is natural for us to worry about or fear the unknown.
Half-deliberately, half-unintentionally, government agencies have lately created the impression that Taiwan’s agricultural industry is the main obstacle to international trade talks. It has not communicated sufficiently with farmers either before or after international trade talks have taken place.
In particular, officials have long focused on commercial industries at the cost of the agricultural industry.
This has made farmers feel that they are coming under pressure and it also makes them lose confidence and trust in the government.
As a result of this lack of mutual trust, farmers worry that the government will make compromises on agricultural issues just as easily as it did in connection to the deregulation of US beef imports, and that this will endanger their livelihoods and, by extension, have a negative impact on the implementation of government agricultural policy and on how the government plans it’s global trade strategies.
Looking at the controversy that has resulted from the recent signing of the cross-strait service trade agreement between Taiwan and China, the government should avoid reporting only positive effects of the agreement while keeping quiet about any negative impact it may have.
It should make a point of providing timely reports that give farmers full information about the actual situation, and it should also promise to provide concrete support measures to those farmers that are negatively affected to allow them to go on with their farming without worrying about the future since this would help facilitate future FTA talks with other countries.
Du Yu is chief executive officer of the Chen-Li Task Force for Agricultural Reform.
Translated by Perry Svensson