Saying that participation in the WTO had brought Taiwan to the global market, President Chen Shui-bian (
"Taiwan is an island, however it cannot remain insular. It needs to embrace a new mindset in this era of globalization," Chen said.
"Joining the WTO is a global trend. Taiwan's participation in the WTO opens it to the world market, as well as opening the whole world's market to Taiwan," the president added.
He called on the nation's farmers to have confidence in their products, saying that "so long as Taiwan's produce guarantee quality, we are not afraid of competition."
The president made the remarks yesterday after viewing the documentary Let it Be (
The film, which won the Image-Taiwan Award at the Fourth Taiwan International Documentary Festival last year, depicted the labor of farmers tending their crops against the backdrop of an unpredictable Mother Nature.
Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), Council of Agriculture Chairman Lee Chin-lung (李金龍) and farmers who were featured in the documentary were invited by the president to join him at the viewing yesterday.
The president cited statistics to counter claims often made by opposition parties of the potential for big profits for farmers from fruit exports to China.
Chen said that Taiwanese mangos exported to Japan could be sold for US$4 per kilogram, while those sent to China sold for US$0.70 per kilogram.
"Japan, Singapore and the US are all very good markets [for Taiwan's produce]," Chen said.
According to Chen, the export value of Taiwan's agricultural produce reached US$3.5 billion last year.
New produce this year will be rice and papaya, which have passed the appropriate tests and can now be exported to Japan, he said.
The president praised the farmers' hard work and devotion in caring for the crops and the land.
"Taiwanese farmers' deep love for this land is the same as the love that generations in Taiwan harbor toward the land," he added.
Chen said that he was willing to listen to the views of the farmers and encouraged them to speak their minds.
He added that the government, in recognition of the contribution the farmers have made to the country, in 2003 raised farmers' pensions from NT$3,000 per month to NT$4,000 per month.
Lu also spoke to the audience, and said she had been touched by the documentary.
"Those who complain about their meals should apologize" in view of the strenuous work by the farmers in minding their crops, she said.
"I suggest this documentary be sent to Taiwan's No.1 tycoon so he can watch it, for his words have truly hurt people's feelings," she added.
Lu did not name who she was speaking about, but she appeared to be referring to comments made on Tuesday by Hon Hai Precision Industry Co chairman Terry Gou (郭台銘), who strongly criticized the government's plan to levy a minimum tax on high-income earners.
"There is much unfairness in society, there needs to be more justice," she said.