While reviewing the central government’s budget for next year yesterday, members of the legislature’s Economics Committee expressed their concern about whether cross-strait talks on the trade in services and commerce would include first category telecommunications.
Telecommunications services in Taiwan, as per the regulations outlined in the Telecommunications Act (電信法), divide telecoms providers into two distinct categories based on the control and ownership of wired or wireless fixed communications networks.
The first category of telecoms providers are those which own either wired or wireless fixed communications networks and must have special permission from the National Communications Council to take ownership of that telecoms infrastructure, while the second category includes all external businesses that operate with, or as sub-contractors to, first category firms.
During the review of the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ budget, Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Hsu Chung-hsin (許忠信) asked whether the reported loosening of restrictions on foreign investment in the sector included Chinese investments.
Hsu wanted to find out if China was prepared to open up its own telecommunications industry, including basic communications firms, as well as family-based telecoms companies.
Hsu’s questions referred to draft amendments the Executive Yuan proposed about the Investment by Foreign Nationals Act (外國人投資條例) and the Domestic Investments by Overseas Compatriots’ Act (華僑回國投資條例) on Thursday, in which the government outlined its intention to allow special investments by foreign companies first and file reports later.
According to Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang (施顏祥), the draft acts have already been forwarded to the Executive Yuan, where they are currently being reviewed.
Shih also said that the two draft acts are aimed strictly at overseas compatriots and foreigners and do not include Chinese.
Chinese investments fall under the jurisdiction of the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (臺灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例) said Shih, adding that neither side is ready to commence talks over the first category of telecommunications.
Shih added that he did not expect the government to open up first category telecommunications firms as part of the fourth round of market liberalization with China, saying that such a move would have to proceed with caution as it would touch on areas of sensitive national security.
Hsu also asked whether China was seeking to open up Taiwan’s Chinese medicine industry, to which Shih said that any items of trade which concerned permits were not on the table.
Shih also said that the ministry was planning to conclude its talks by the end of the year.