Tue, Jan 02, 2018 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Southbound projects to show nation’s worth: minister

Minister Without Portfolio John Deng, who has been tasked with supervising implementation of the Cabinet’s New Southbound Policy, spoke to ‘Liberty Times’ (sister paper of the ‘Taipei Times’) reporter Lee Hsin-fang about his expectations for cooperation with the targeted countries on public infrastructure, medical and agricultural projects, and about the nation’s chances of joining the CPTPP

In terms of agricultural cooperation, plans are in motion to cultivate hundreds of hectares of farmland as agricultural demonstration zones. As these projects prove successful, they will serve as the template for future collaborations, a process the Council of Agriculture is overseeing.

Of course, we must take care when negotiating the terms for those projects with local governments, when constructing irrigation systems and selecting crops that local farmers will benefit.

Transferring our agricultural technologies will facilitate our partners’ agricultural economic development, while expanding our agricultural equipment and fertilizer exports. We expect our efforts to help raise income levels among Southeast Asian farmers, who tend to be poor.

In fact, our partner governments in two or three of the agricultural demonstration zones have already expressed interest in focusing on such projects.

LT: Should Taiwan try to become a member of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) that Japan and other governments have launched after the US pulled out from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)?

Deng: Although the US has abandoned the TPP, the CPTPP remains an important project.

First, the CPTPP is the largest regional trade agreement of the past few years, with 11 prospective member states.

Second, it is to set high standards for market openness, institutional transparency and liberalism. That is important for Taiwan, as our continuing efforts toward modernization, reform, efficiency and competitiveness require us to live up to its principles.

Whether or not Taiwan will be a part of the CPTPP, we must keep up with its rules. We need to open our markets. With open markets, our enterprises will get a better sense of how to bolster their competitiveness.

Admittedly, this is not an easy task. Our challenge is to design policies that would facilitate our participation and to overcome international political challenges.

As the CPTPP would create a no-tariff zone, the government will have to improve the competitiveness of industries that have been protected by high tariffs. Some enterprises would be placed at a disadvantage and it would be important to introduce policies to help them. Such a system must be comprehensively designed, or they would certainly put up resistance.

In the realm of international politics, although we have concluded free-trade agreements with two of the 11 prospective members, namely Singapore and New Zealand, our trade volumes with the remaining members are not high and there are very few major investments between them and us.

We need to actively lobby for their support, because a Taiwanese bid to join the CPTPP would need to be approved unanimously by all 11 member states.

Translated by staff writers William Hetherington and Jonathan Chin

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