President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday pledged government efforts to build free economic pilot zones as a major step toward developing a free-trade economy.
“The free economic pilot zones are a very important government policy, and we will succeed in our policy plans and tolerate no failures,” Ma said at a meeting with industrial and business representatives at the Presidential Office.
Promoting an international and free economy has been the government’s goal for the past 30 years, Ma said. Efforts to achieve this goal include the former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government’s plan to build free-trade ports, although that had a limited effect because cross-strait direct links had not been established at the time, he said.
Ma defended his administration’s achievement in improving cross-strait relations, while seeking closer economic ties with major trade partners, including the US, Japan, New Zealand and Australia.
“There is no need to argue whether Taiwan is joining the international community via the mainland, or entering [the Chinese market] via the international community. Such exchanges can go both ways,” he said.
The design of the free economic pilot zones will be based on the concept of free-trade zones stipulated in the Act for the Establishment and Management of Free Trade Zones (自由貿易港區設置管理條例), which was amended in December last year.
Chinese National Association of Industry and Commerce director Chang An-ping (張安平) suggested that financial services should be included in the free economic pilot zones to boost the nation’s competitiveness vis-a-vis Singapore and Hong Kong.
Ma acknowledged that the nation has seen an exodus of talent in the field of financial management to Singapore and Hong Kong. He said the government would seek a solution to persuade them to return to Taiwan.
“The government will present measures to solve the issue. We cannot afford to lose talent and money,” he said.
According to the Council for Economic Planning and Development, the free economic pilot zones would include high-level services such as legal consulting, accounting and financial services.
The council will present the proposed free economic pilot zones to the legislature for approval in September.