President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday instructed the Executive Yuan to speed up the establishment of “Free Economic Pilot Zones” aimed at stimulating economic growth and to clarify concerns about economic liberalization in response to opposition to such zones.
The Executive Yuan has designated the nation’s six free-trade zones — Suao Port in Yilan County, Keelung Port in Keelung City, Taipei Port in New Taipei City (新北市), Taichung Port in Greater Taichung, Kaohsiung Port in Greater Kaohsiung and the Taoyuan Aerotropolis in Taoyuan County — as pilot zones that are to implement the WTO-plus provisions for the liberalization of investment in the manufacturing and services sectors, movement of goods and services, flow of capital, movement of labor and transfer of technology for investors from countries besides China.
The plan has sparked concerns about local industries’ competitiveness, because limitations on domestic investment are to be relaxed and the rules concerning land acquisition, employment of skilled and white-collar foreign workers, visa requirements and taxation are to be adjusted within the zones.
“We are not attracting foreign investments merely by tax cuts, and the policy on foreign workers hasn’t changed … People expect the plan to transform Taiwan, but there will be much speculation and many rumors. We need to explain the plan clearly and move on with the plan,” Ma said while presiding over a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Central Standing Committee meeting.
Ma stressed the need for the nation to relax investment regulations and promote economic liberalization to raise its economic competitiveness.
He added that the establishment of the economic pilot zones would also attract more major trading partners to sign free-trade agreements with Taiwan.
Council for Economic Planning and Development Minister Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔), who presented a report on the Executive Yuan’s plan for the free economic pilot zones at the meeting, said the pilot zones would focus on efforts to establish international logistics centers, operate international medical services, manufacture value-added agricultural products and cooperate with local industries to promote industrial innovation and integration.
Ma said that the pilot zones would serve as starting points for the nation’s full economic liberalization.
He added that the Executive Yuan would communicate extensively with local governments to promote the establishment of the pilot zones.
“It is the government’s responsibility to create conditions for the nation to take part in regional economic integration, and we cannot passively wait for opportunities to come along,” he said.