Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) yesterday confirmed that a two-phase free economic zones (FEZ) plan, which aims to liberalize the nation’s international trade activity and promote industrial upgrades, would be announced today — with pilot zones established in northern, central and southern Taiwan in the first phase.
Chinese agricultural products would be allowed to be imported and processed in the zones before being shipped out labeled as “Made-in-Taiwan” products, but these products would not be sold in Taiwan, nor would the ban on 830 Chinese agricultural products be lifted, Jiang told a plenary session of the legislature.
Without going into details, Jiang said the Executive Yuan was set to announce the three locations selected as sites for the experimental zones today and if the plan went well and related legislation was amended, the government would begin accepting applications from local governments for the establishment of more such zones for a second phase of the project.
The project would be the “first major economic task” under his premiership and it aims to liberalize trade, and upgrade Taiwan’s labor-intensive and cost-based industrial structure, Jiang told lawmakers.
Relaxed regulations on labor recruitment, cash flow, land acquisition, market opening and tax incentives would be offered in the zones to attract foreign investment and create models for new trade activity, he said.
Lawmakers focused on two topics in their question-and-answer sessions — the sectors to be included in the zones and the “China factor.”
Jiang refused to discuss the FEZ plan in detail ahead of today’s official announcement, but said that a medical center for severe diseases and medical tourism, as well as an agricultural technology center — which was later confirmed by Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Bao-ji (陳保基) — were expected to be established in the zones.
A financial center was not likely to be included, he added, but Taiwan would continue to liberalize its financial and banking sector.
Jiang pledged that the current ban on hundreds of Chinese agricultural products would remain in place, and that a relaxation of restrictions on Chinese workers and investment would be a notch below that of foreign workers and investment, because negotiations on the implementation of the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) have yet to be completed.
Responding to questions from Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清) and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chang Chia-chun (張嘉郡), Jiang said that while Chinese products would be brought in for processing and then be labeled as Taiwanese products, Taiwanese farmers would eventually benefit from the increased trade output.