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COA touts benefit of pilot zone project for agriculture in Taiwan
Central News Agency
2014-06-16 11:35 PM
Taipei, June 16 (CNA) The Council of Agriculture (COA) on Monday rejected charges that a free economic pilot zone bill now pending in the Legislature would "add value to China's agriculture," contending that it would instead enhance Taiwan's agriculture competitiveness. COA Minister Chen Bao-ji said the critics have focused their arguments on the proposed duty-free treatment of Chinese agriculture products entering the zone, but he felt that was "missing the point." "The main point is to use Taiwan's edge in food processing to add value to agriculture products, and market them to the world as does the Netherlands," Chen said. He said opposing the pilot zones because of resistance to Chinese agricultural products is to deprive Taiwan of the chance to add value to its agriculture and upgrade its agricultural competitiveness. Chen's appeal came after agricultural representatives, scholars and consumer groups voiced their misgivings over the plan at a press conference earlier Monday at the Legislature.

They questioned if the project's commitment to "value-added agriculture" would actually promote "value-added Chinese agriculture," and said that if the COA did not serve farmers, its head should step down. Professor Cheng Hsiu-lin of National Taiwan University said that under the free economic pilot zone bill, items authorized to enter will be exempt from import duties, commodity taxes and business taxes. Cheng wondered that if import duties could be waived, who would want to engage in trade talks with Taiwan in the future? In a statement issued later Monday, however, the COA said the taxes would only be waived if the raw materials entering the zone were processed for export. They would still apply if Chinese raw materials were used in products for domestic consumption. NTU Professor Wu Jung-chieh said that under the project, 830 agricultural goods from China currently banned from entering Taiwan will be allowed into the zones for reprocessing. That would be tantamount to "cruel punishment of those factories that specialize in processing local agriculture products," adding that "value-added agriculture" would only benefit a few people. Another NTU professor, Hsieh Chi-cheng, said the project would enable Chinese peanuts to turn into made-in-Taiwan peanut butter, an approach that a COA official believed makes sense. Department of Planning chief Tsao Shao-huei cited the example of Skippy peanut butter, a U.S. brand, which is made in China using Chinese raw materials and sold to Taiwan. Of the more than 2,000 tons of peanut butter imported by Taiwan a year, half of it is made in China, Tsao said, asking if it would not be better to let local manufacturers import Chinese peanuts to produce peanut butter themselves and create job and investment opportunities.

The COA's statement also indicated that raw materials entering the pilot zones will be subject to the same quarantine and inspection rules as anywhere else, so there is no possibility that the image of "MIT" agriculture products will be undermined. (By Yang Shu-min and Lilian Wu)

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