Taiwan seeks to expand trade relations with world

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TAIPEI, Taiwan: The Republic of China (Taiwan) is inviting the world to invest through its Free Economic Pilot Zone (FEPZ) project, a key step in ensuring that Taiwan remains on the development fast track, according to a Taiwan high official.

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“To put the FEPZs in proper perspective, it is worth noting that they are being implemented in accord with President Ma Ying-jeou’s Viable Diplomacy policy announced soon after he took office in May 2008,” Vanessa Y.P. Shih, vice minister of Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told international media.

“Under this policy, my government has worked to expand Taiwan‘s cultural, economic and trade relations with its partners around the world on the basis of autonomy, dignity, flexibility and pragmatism,” the official said.

With the introduction of a comprehensive regulatory easing on the flows of capital, merchandise and talent within the facility, Shih said the FEPZs will attract foreign investment and greatly increase the private sector’s operational efficiency

She said the project involves enacting special laws governing the zones as well as regulatory amendments and tax incentives.

“Innovation and trade liberalization are the pillars of Taiwan’s economic development,” Shih said. “We expect the FEPZ to become a significant growth driver” for Taiwan going forward.

“The Council for Economic Planning and Development, Ministry of Economic Affairs and other relevant agencies are speeding up respective efforts so the legislation can be drafted by year-end,” Shih said.

Regional economic integration
“My government remains convinced that regional stability and prosperity are only enhanced by the current trend toward greater integration of the regional economy. Thus, we are redoubling our efforts toward further liberalization of Taiwan’s economy to ensure that it is not left on the sidelines of this process,” she said.

“This makes it imperative for Taiwan to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP),” the official said.

In Asean, currently only Singapore has a free trade agreement with Taiwan.

Shih said, “This has opened the door for talks on similar pacts of our trading partners to advance Taiwan’s integration into the regional economy and consolidate our position in the global supply chain.”

The official added that at present, “35 percent of our total trade is with the 12 negotiating parties to the TPP. This figure increases to 57 percent with the 16 participants in RCEP free trade agreement negotiations.”

“Fast-tracking further trade liberalization through the FEPZs is the best way to achieve this goal. Within these zones, reform of regulations pertaining to capital, labor and logistics is designed to enhance the development of six designated industries: education innovation, financial services, intelligent logistics, international health and value-added agriculture. The goal is to boost Taiwan’s competitiveness and enable it ultimately to become a free economic island,” she added.

“My government is helping local companies to tap foreign markets and to enhance the image of Taiwan brands through overseas trade shows and targeted promotions. It is also drumming up investment from foreign and domestic firms. FEPZs are a key plank in this platform that will add vigor to the economies of Taiwan, the Asia-Pacific and rest of the world,” she said.

Under the project, Taiwan has nine free economic pilot zones, namely the seaports of Taipei, Kaohsiung, Keelung, Taichung, Su’ao and Anping, Changhua Coastal Industrial Park; Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, its main international gateway; and Pingtung Agricultural Biotechnology Park.

Four industries are set for strategic promotion within the zones. These are industrial cooperation, international medical services, smart logistics and value-added agricultural processing.

With this project, Taiwan is expecting the FTZs to see trade value multiplying and surpassing NT$1 trillion ($32.5 billion) in 2015 and business revenue for financial services to increase by NT$28-42 billion annually.

East China Sea peace initiative
Vice Minister Shih also emphasized Taiwan’s peace strategy to ease the tension in the region.

“Greater engagement with the international community is a two-way street, and we seek to give as much as we receive from such engagement. That is why my government has positioned Taiwan as a peace builder in the region, and especially in the East China Sea and South China Sea areas where tensions have flared recently,” she said.

“In response to growing tensions over the Diaoyutai Islands, President Ma proposed the East China Sea Peace Initiative in August of 2012, advocating peaceful resolution of regional disputes in accordance with international law,” Shih said.

“The core concept of the East China Sea Peace Initiative is that while sovereignty is indivisible and cannot be compromised, resources can be shared,” she added.

“Taiwan has already employed this principle to resolve four decades of fisheries disputes with Japan, and we feel that it can also serve as a productive approach for other parties in the region or elsewhere to set aside their differences and work together for sustainable development,” she said.

“That is the very basis of cross-strait relations since 2008. President Ma has made it clear that Taiwan and mainland China enjoy a special relationship, one that is neither international nor domestic,” Shih said.

“President Ma has said that we are committed to maintaining the cross-strait status quo of ‘no unification, no independence, and no use of force’ under the framework of the ROC Constitution,” she said.

“Throughout his tenure as president, we have promoted the peaceful and stable development of cross-strait ties based on the 1992 consensus of ‘one China with respective interpretations,’ as well as the principle of ‘mutual non-recognition of sovereignty and mutual non-denial of authority to govern’,” she added.

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