Concerned that further liberalization could have a catastrophic effect on the agricultural sector, farming activists called on the government to halt a plan to create “free economic pilot zones” (FEPZs).
While government officials, including Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) and Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Pao-chi (陳保基), promised that FEPZs would prove beneficial to farmers, farming activists called the promises lies.
“Trade is already very liberal in this country. What Taiwan needs at the moment is the transformation of the agricultural sector, not further liberalization,” Taiwan Rural Front spokeswoman Tsai Pei-hui (蔡培慧) told a news conference at the Legislative Yuan yesterday.
“Experiments with free trade zones in countries such as India and South Korea have proven that it would only lead to a dead end,” she said.
Farmers and farming activists are worried about the idea of establish processing centers for agricultural products in FEPZs, which, according to the plan that has been drawn up, would “process and export agricultural products using raw materials with a competitive advantage.”
“In the world of free trade, ‘products with competitive advantage’ usually refers to ‘products that cost less,’ Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Liu Chien-kuo (劉建國) said.
“Thus we can almost be certain that it would be agricultural products from China that would be processed and exported in the FEPZs,” said Liu, who represents the predominantly agricultural constituency of Yunlin County.
Several farmers at the press conference agreed with Liu.
“We’re quite worried that foreign agricultural products will benefit from the FEPZs,” said Chiu Hsien-hui (邱顯輝), a farmer from New Taipei City (新北市).
Rice farmer Chen Shou-chin (陳守欽) from Changhua County’s Sihu Township (溪湖) said the government would win 100 percent support from farmers were it to draft a plan that would benefit farmers.
“But it doesn’t seem to be the case with the FEPZ plan,” Chen said.
Peng Ming-hwei (彭明輝), a retired National Tsing Hua University professor, pointed out that trade liberalization usually benefits large corporations at the expense of farmers and workers.
“Since Taiwan’s admission to the World Trade Organization, people’s real income has dropped and the unemployment rate has gone up, but GPD has increased,” Perng said.
“This indicates that wealth is flowing toward big corporations and capitalists, and away from ordinary citizens,” he said.
“The government should refrain from further liberalization of trade,” he added.