Wed, Aug 21, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Port-zone proposal floated

By Crystal Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

To help their constituencies attract foreign capital, lawmakers from across party lines yesterday urged the government to give serious thought to establishing free-trade port zones.

They said policymakers should adopt a liberal and active attitude when approaching the matter, as conservatism may hamper the pace of progress.

DPP legislative whip Wang Tuoh (王拓), who represents the northern port city of Keelung, said free-trade ports are necessary to help Taiwan stay competitive in a world that is increasingly marked by economic inter-dependence.

"Taiwan cannot afford to ignore the trend of globalization, or it will witness its international competitiveness steadily dwindle," Wang told a news conference. "If that happens, we may expect economic indexes to head downwards."

To avoid that, he suggested the Cabinet lower the requirements for domestic ports to qualify for free-trade zones.

The Cabinet is about to unveil draft rules for the establishment and management of free-trade port districts. The measure is part of the six-year national development plan called "Challenge 2008."

PFP lawmaker Liu Wen-hsiung (劉文雄), who comes from the same constituency as Wang, said the government should heed the advice of the private sector in formulating public policies.

He said the inability to integrate public and private resources led the failure by the former KMT administration to build Taiwan into a regional commercial operations center.

DPP lawmaker Chiu Tai-san (邱太三), who represents Taichung County where the Taichung harbor is located, said free-trade ports provide the answer to concerns about direct links with China.

He envisions a free-trade port where Chinese businessmen will be allowed three-day visa-free visits. Chiu dubbed the measure "medium-scale direct links."

Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁), a DPP lawmaker from the southern port city of Kaohsiung, said it is better for the government to categorize free-trade ports as "special public legal entities" so they may function more smoothly and effectively.

He frowned on an idea floated by economic officials to put these ports under the joint custody of transportation, economics and mainland affairs agencies.

The lawmakers will hold a forum today and tomorrow to advance their cause.

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