Mon, Jan 07, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Combating swine fever vital for the economy

By Huang Tien-lin 黃天麟

Eighteen years of mistaken attempts to integrate Taiwan’s economy with China’s pushed Taiwan to negative economic growth and the brink of collapse. After the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) shouldered the burden left by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government in 2016, a Herculean effort has brought back economic growth of 2.8 percent.

However, the DPP ended last year with an electoral defeat because of Chinese grassroots infiltration.

Unfortunately, it seems the intense US-China conflict is to continue this year. Without compromise, global trade is likely to contract, with Taiwan suffering more than other countries.

This is the result of the attempt to create a “one China” market over the past 18 years. There is no panacea: Only hard work will gradually correct the past economic integration with China.

One thing that the government must do this year is prevent African swine fever from entering Taiwan. Failure to do so would cost Taiwan NT$200 billion (US$6.48 billion) and the DPP government power come 2020.

The government has set up relevant emergency response mechanisms, but apart from raising fines for bringing pork products into the country, there have been no concrete measures, and radical and tangible policies are now needed.

First, the “small three links” should be temporarily suspended.

The Mainland Affairs Council has on several occasions asked China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits for epidemic information, but received no response.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has also called on China to keep Taiwan updated, to which China’s Taiwan Affairs Office responded that Taiwan does not import Chinese pork.

Using China’s failure to provide information about African swine fever as a reason, Taiwan could temporarily close the direct trade links, thus blocking the riskiest channels.

If anyone fears that this would cost votes, they can rest easy. Closing the “small three links” would only bring slight inconvenience to Taiwanese businesspeople who would have to fly home from Xiamen.

Second, online shopping between Taiwan and China should be temporarily suspended.

The legislature has passed amendments to the Statute for Prevention and Control of Infectious Animal Disease (動物傳染病防治條例) banning imports by mail of products requiring quarantine, but thousands of objects are bought online every day and it is difficult to prevent goods requiring quarantine from entering the country.

Overall, online shopping is not very important to Taiwan’s economy, so it could be suspended temporarily, while coastal defenses are strengthened to prevent smuggling.

This would not cost votes either, because as long as consumers have money, they could still buy what they need.

It would be a great achievement if the government could keep African swine fever outside Taiwan, and it would instill public confidence and respect.

There is no need to worry whether the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) would take revenge or whether cross-strait economic exchanges would decrease.

When Taiwan ended the cross-strait service trade agreement, the CCP still allowed Taiwanese banks to enter China. Using the economy to promote unification and controlling Taiwan is beneficial to China and would impoverish Taiwan.

Furthermore, China would not dare take any rash action, because the US-China trade dispute is continuing and Beijing suffers from not cooperating on African swine fever prevention.

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