President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday stressed the government’s determination to join regional trade blocs and said that increasing economic cooperation with major trade partners would reduce the nation’s economic dependence on China.
“China is our biggest trade partner, but we cannot put all our eggs in one basket... International competition is very cruel and it is difficult to catch up once you are marginalized. We must take part in regional economic integration to remain competitive,” he said while presiding over a meeting of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Central Standing Committee.
The committee yesterday invited Council for Economic Planning and Development Minister Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔) to present a report on free economic zones, which are aimed at loosening regulations and opening local markets to foreign investors, including Chinese companies.
The council has set up free-trade pilot zones in several areas, including Keelung Port, Taipei Port in New Taipei City (新北市), the Taoyuan Aerotropolis in Taoyuan County, Kaohsiung Port and the Pingtung Agricultural Biotechnology Park. It has also lifted regulations covering labor recruitment, raw material imports, exports and capital flows to attract more investment.
The council estimated that the revised pilot zone plan would help boost private investment by NT$21 billion (US$709 million) and GDP by NT$30 billion this year, as well as create 13,000 jobs.
Kuan said Taiwan’s pilot zones are more liberalized than the free-trade area in Shanghai, but that the government will consider seeking cooperation with the Shanghai zone to promote free trade.
He dismissed concerns about the zones increasing the flow of Chinese workers to Taiwan, saying that the council would not relax regulations on the recruitment of blue-collar workers and the zones would not be open to Chinese workers.