Sat, Jul 30, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Farmers must make own decision about fruit exports: Hsieh

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

It will be the decision of Taiwanese farmers and theirs alone as to whether to sign on to Beijing's offer to drop import tariffs on 15 kinds of Taiwanese fruit, Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) said yesterday.

"I must emphasize again, the government has no intention of interfering in Taiwanese farmers' business ... but it is the government's job to protect their interests," Hsieh said.

The premier said that it is the decision of farmers -- and not the opposition parties -- as to whether or not they want to do business with the Chinese government.

But he said the logistics and regulations surrounding such exports was a matter to be resolved by the governments on either side of the Taiwan Strait.

"These kinds of issues need to be settled by both governments. We will decide on our own set of regulations and not follow [the Chinese government's] lead," Hsieh said. "Otherwise, we will not be able to defend ourselves if [the Chinese] suddenly request that Taiwan provide tariff-free status on Chinese agricultural exports."

In the meantime, Hsieh also said that if Taiwanese fruit is exported to China, local farmers and government officials must be careful that production techniques do not fall into the hands of Chinese farmers. The premier also said he would take responsibility if anything goes wrong with an increase of cross-strait agricultural trade.

"If something goes wrong in the future, the person who will bow and apologize ... will be me, not Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶)," the premier said.

Also, Hsieh agreed with the idea that Taiwanese farmers will be able to make handsome profits from increased agricultural trade.

But an agreement should not compromise the nation's reputation as a world-class agricultural producer, Hsieh said.

"There's a chance that our position in the international produce market could take a critical blow if Chinese competitors get wind of local production methods," he said.

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