Jewelry and silverware retailers are distressed over the confusion about whether their industry is to be opened up for Chinese investment and competition under the cross-strait service trade agreement.
Attempts to get a definitive answer from the government about the issue have failed, proprietors say.
Shih Wen-hsin (石文信), convener of the Taipei Jewelers’ Association, has weighed in with the criticism.
“Nobody knows what’s going on,” Shih said, referring to both business operators and government officials.
“It’s quite chaotic,” he said.
Shih said that jewelry and silverware shops are classified under the “services and channel sales” sector in Taiwan, and gold is open to retail and trading, but it is a controlled commodity in China.
“Thus when Chinese proprietors come to Taiwan [under the trade agreement], they do not have to pay customs duties. They can also operate gold and jewelry businesses as sole proprietors,” he said.
“However, if Taiwanese proprietors were to go to China, they will have to form a partnership with local companies and pay an import duty on gold of 17 percent,” he said.
Shih said there is a big difference between the Taiwanese and Chinese industry.
“We are not afraid of competition. The important issue is having a level playing field,” Shih said.
“In Taiwan, gold is quoted for sale according to the day’s international gold price. Each of our association’s members knows how to calculate the daily international gold price, foreign currency exchange rates, then add in transportation and insurance charges,” he said.
“A such, our members can explain to clients about costs and profit margins. [The process] is transparent and fair,” he said.
However, it is very different in China, Shih said.
“They have ‘gold price monopolization.’ China’s gold and silverware proprietors are joined together to monopolize and manipulate gold prices. The rights of Chinese consumers have long been violated. Chinese proprietors have a bad reputation in this sector,” he said.
“If we open up to Chinese investment and companies, it would lead to unfair competition in Taiwan,” Shih said.
Officials at the Bureau of Foreign Trade had earlier said that gold and silverware retailing is included in the cross-strait pact. However, they later said that the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ Department of Commerce and the Investment Commission were in charge of negotiating on which business sectors should be included in the agreement.
When contacted on Monday, Department of Commerce Deputy Chief Chen Mi-shun (陳秘順) said he did not know, as his department was not in charge of jewelry and silverware stores.
“We only provide services for business owners. We do not oversee their business activities,” he said.
“Our department formulates policies on measures to combat money laundering. But for reporting about money laundering, that is handled by the Money Laundering Prevention Center at the Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau, he said.
“Retailing and business activities are not regulated by one single government agency,” he said.