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Academics call for better planning of FEPZs
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-06-16 07:21 PM
On Monday members of the National Alliance against Free Economic Pilot Zones (FEPZs) called for the government to carry out full impact assessment studies on all of the sites proposed for such zones and halt development of the sites until the reports are released. Tsai Ting-kuei, convener of the movement for a referendum on the FEPZs, said that if the government attempts to push through legislation on the FEPZs, his organization may call for surrounding the Legislative Yuan.

Cheng Hsiu-ling, head of the Economics Department, and Wu Rung-chieh, head of the Department of Agricultural Economics at National Taiwan University, together with Tseng Wei-chun of the School of Applied Economics at Chung-hsing University and dean Chen Shu-en of Pingtung University’s Agribusiness Management Department, appeared in a press conference Monday to protest the FEPZ proposal. They questioned the use of foreign agricultural products as raw materials by the food processing industry, explaining that it can lead to drastic reductions in demand for domestic agricultural products and adversely impact Taiwanese farmers' livelihood.

It will also make it hard to distonguish between authentic made-in-Taiwan products and goods that are labeled MIT but include ingredients from other areas. Generally speaking, they said, introducing mainland agricultural products into Taiwan could cause all kinds of food safety concerns for consumers.

Liang Wen-tao, spokesman for the alliance, warned that establishing FEPZs will have a significant impact on local industry, labor, revenue and land use and could cause damage to the country's overall interests as well.

The four experts in economics and agriculture noted that special regulations custom-made to help the FEPZs will work to destroy local agricultural development and asked the government to delete all provisions in legislation related to value-added agricultural products. They also asked Council of Agriculture chairman Chen Bao-ji to step down to take responsibility for controversial public policies that have already been put in place.

They pointed out that Chen has said the COA welcomes all suggestions and is open to debate on the issues, but at the same time he tries to divert attention from the 830 agricultural products from mainland China that would receive favorable treatment under proposed bills. The group said Taiwan needs to develop more trade and business with countries throughout the world and not just with mainland China.

Chen has said the market will not be opened to imports of so-called ‘sensitive’ products, goods that are also produced in Taiwan. Chen also said the government will carefully examine what products need to be protected, but so far no one has made an application involving such products. There have been applications for products like processed corn and barley, but these are products that are not grown or produced in Taiwan in great quantities.

Chen noted that the FEPZs will operate in competition with producers all over the world of value-added goods, not only processing agricultural products but also industrializing other types of technology, just as is done in the Netherlands. He added that Taiwan will utilize raw materials from around the world and not just from the Chinese mainland.

Chen said some have asked how small farmers in Taiwan may be expected to cope with imports from large international agricultural enterprises. He explained that small farmers need to organize themselves in the face of international competition, in the same way the domestic ornamental fish industry and orchid industry have done.

He said FEPZs should not be viewed simply as operations that will import mainland agricultural products, but as businesses which will obtain products from places like mainland China or Singapore and then re-sell them worldwide.

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