Tue, Mar 26, 2013 - Page 1 News List

TSU voices free economic zone concerns

By Chris Wang and Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter and staff writer, with CNA

The Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) yesterday expressed strong opposition to a policy devised by the Executive Yuan, which could be enacted as early as tomorrow, to promote free economic zones, saying that Taiwanese workers and products could be jeopardized.

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday instructed government agencies to prepare for the relaxation of trade restrictions to pave the way for the establishment of a free-trade pilot zone.

Ma was quoted by Presidential Office spokesperson Lee Chia-fei (李佳霏) as having made the remarks at a meeting on planning proposals for the pilot zone, which was attended by Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺), Council for Economic Planning and Development Minister Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔) and the heads of other relevant departments.

Setting up a free-trade pilot zone would be a prelude to full trade liberalization and could have a profoundly positive impact on the nation’s competitiveness and economic development, Lee quoted Ma as saying at the meeting.

The president was also quoted as urging agencies to prepare for regulatory easing and the further opening of trade, which he said could be conducive to the nation’s participation in East Asian economic integration and efforts to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

“President Ma also urged the agencies concerned to formulate well-thought-out legislation and amendments [to complement the planned free-trade zone] and communicate with legislative caucuses and the public to garner support,” Lee said.

The planning of a free-trade pilot zone is based on the core principles of liberalization, internationalization and farsightedness, with an aim to facilitate the free flow of capital, talent and merchandise, Ma was quoted as saying.

“To demonstrate the nation’s resolution to pursue trade liberalization, the government must not only endeavor to attract foreign investment, but also help industries upgrade and transform,” Ma was quoted as saying.

“Most importantly, we must create more job opportunities, conform with international practice, promote economic development and facilitate new dynamic industries,” he said.

However, TSU caucus whip Lin Shih-chia (林世嘉) said that several critical components of the plan that could jeopardize Taiwanese workers and products — including setting the maximum percentage of foreign workers allowed in the free-trade zone and deciding whether Chinese-made products could be labelled “Made in Taiwan” if they were processed in the zone — have yet to be discussed.

Kuan, who is overseeing the project, has engaged in extensive dialogue with business owners on the matter, but has refused to listen to the public, Lin said.

He added that the “hastily planned” project had become Kuan’s “experiment,” which could harm domestic employment and production.

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