Liberty Times (LT): When campaigning for the position, you said that Taipei Agricultural Products Marketing Corp should be held publicly accountable. Now that you are in charge, how do you plan to implement such a policy?
Wu Yin-ning (吳音寧): Public accountability is not just about the company, but the government — the Republic of China government — should be publicly accountable for its very existence. If the government wants to make money, then the nation does not need a government; it only needs a company.
Since the lifting of martial law in 1987, Taiwan has transitioned from authoritarian government to democracy. However, while democratic ideas having taken root, there is still great power in commercial activities, so much so that the public mistakenly perceives the government from a commercial perspective.
Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times
For example, the public judges the government’s actions based on its ability to finance itself, or espouses the sentiment that the government should make a basic profit. If we approach the concept of government from this perspective, then we are disregarding the basic, existential goal of the institution. The company is an embodiment of this example.
LT: Is it your opinion that the company should be run like a governmental organization?
Wu: The government does not actually own 100 percent of the company’s shares, but it does own nearly half. The purpose of the government’s stake is to ensure public accountability, or the company should just be run like any logistics company, as governmental shares have no significance.
Essentially, the company should play the role of an auctioneer connecting suppliers and consumers. The company’s main job is to establish a reasonable and transparent system with certain guarantees. The establishment of such a system is important for both the company and for the country.
LT: The company should operate very differently under your leadership, then?
Wu: My philosophy of management differs greatly from that of former company president Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜). The company dedicated itself to developing a foreign-trade division. I do not think the company should actively do business with foreign partners, whether importing or exporting. Doing business with foreign partners would not be a core concern under my leadership.
The company’s focus should return to its founding purpose — to promote local consumption of agricultural produce from Taiwan. The company could do this by focusing on providing a platform for producers to auction their goods to consumers or retailers. This is the most important goal and we should seek to play our part well. We should not think of profits, or of foreign trade.
The establishment of the foreign-trade division was more for political benefit than actual sales. Under former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration, China wished to sell some of its produce through the company’s foreign trade division.
LT: Has such trade actually developed? Has Taiwan sold any surplus produce to China?
Wu: China is not our “little follower,” and we should not expect it to listen to us. The channel for produce sales should be mutual. Economics is not a one-sided affair; there must be sales and purchases.
If there must be interaction, China is not simply handing over its agricultural products to you; it might have political motives, or other agendas.
What is its goal? Is China simply being altruistic by taking care of Taiwan’s agricultural produce surplus? Just think; is it possible? No.
It is impossible for China to be so altruistic without acting to further its own aims. China is no fool.
LT: Would the company under your leadership have something to contribute on the issue of food safety?
Wu: We have already made amendments to the inspection procedures. Speaking of the procedures, there are serious issues with inspections as well. The short time between receiving produce, storing it and auctioning it is too short and the company can only afford to perform random inspections.
However, the standards on pesticide and herbicide use vary for different vegetables and it is impossible to examine them all. We have suggested that such examinations should also be made at the place of origin and will promote such a policy in the future. However, I do not think it will be easy.
LT: Does your father [poet Wu Sheng (吳晟)] oppose your taking the position?
Wu: Well, he is not exactly opposed to it, just worried about me as a father.
In his eyes, I am starting a job in Taipei while originating from the countryside. Besides, he knows my shortcomings. For instance, I might not be shrewd enough or tough enough. He worries that I will be framed for some wrong, but I am not afraid, nor do I want to use this position as some sort of a springboard.
I decided to take the position because I wish to fully understand the company and what it stands for and want to attempt to effect change.
If I manage to introduce many changes, that would mean I have done my job to the best of my ability; if there would be only few changes, that would be due to my lack of ability. That is all.
Translated by Jake Chung, staff writer
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