Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Bill Cho (卓士昭) yesterday provided general information to lawmakers about the costs and benefits of a potential entry by Taiwan into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), drawing criticism about the government’s preparedness to steer the nation toward securing a seat in the emerging regional economic integration agreement.
Cho and Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) attended a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee for discussion of the TPP issue.
Cho told Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Ou-po (陳歐珀) that agriculture was the sector that would be hit the hardest if Taiwan joins the TPP, with its production value estimated to fall by NT$72.77 billion (U$2.442 billion). President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) earlier this year said that Taiwan could join the TPP within eight years.
According to statistics from the Council of Agriculture, the output value of the agricultural sector stood at NT$475.52 billion in 2011.
Cho did not explain whether that loss was estimated on an annual basis or on a longer period.
Questioned later by other lawmakers who were eager to know the exact details of the estimates, Cho said he did not have comprehensive information at hand.
“By all accounts, the benefits of TPP membership outweigh the costs,” Cho said, basing his remarks on an impact assessment conducted by the Chung-Hua Institute for Economic Research (CIER).
CIER’s initial report showed that joining the TPP would increase the nation’s GDP by 1.46 percent and that the nation’s textile industry’s production value would increase by US$4.46 billion; that of the chemical, plastic and rubber products industry by US$2.023 billion; the leather garment and leather product industry by between US$1.2 billion and US$1.4 billion; and the services industry by US$11.562 billion, Cho said.
Cho said that CIER is expected to present a detailed assessment report in June.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chen Pi-han (陳碧涵) demanded that the ministry present the committee with its analysis of how Taiwan’s entry into the TPP would affect agricultural jobs, cause reduced income for farmers and reduce the nation’s food self-sufficiency ratio, as well as the government’s response strategies.
DPP Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) urged the government to be more explicit about unresolved trade issues between Taiwan and its trading partners.
Hsiao said that the government needed to speak plainly to those who might be negatively affected by bilateral or multilateral free-trade agreements and discuss with them measures to help them adjust to trade liberalization.