New gov’t to maintain ban on 830 Chinese products


TAIPEI, Taiwan — Minister-designate of the Cabinet-level Council of Agriculture (COA) Chen Wu-hsiung said yesterday that the incoming Kuomintang (KMT) administration will maintain the restrictions on imports of 830 agricultural products from China, including garlic and peanuts, in order to protect local farmers’ interests.

Chen made the remarks while speaking on his agriculture policy in an interview with the Central News Agency, during which he said both sides of the Taiwan Strait should seek to promote bilateral economic and trade exchanges under the so-called “1992 consensus.”

The “1992 consensus” was a term coined by former Mainland Affairs Council Chairman Su Chi of the KMT in 2000 to describe a tacit understanding reportedly reached in Hong Kong in 1992 between Taiwan and China to skirt sovereignty issues in cross-strait talks. According to KMT President elect Ma Ying-jeou, the “1992 consensus” allows different definitions of “one-China,” with Taiwan interpreting “one China” as referring to the Republic of China — Taiwan’s official title.

Taiwan currently allows imports of 1,467 farm products from China, but the new KMT government will not lift restrictions on the importation of another 830 products, such as garlic, peanuts, dried mushrooms and rice, from the mainland, Chen said.

He suggested that the best way to protect farmers’ interests is for Taiwan and China to open up their markets to each other’s products based upon their respective market demands, instead of filing complaints against each other in the World Trade Organization.

Touching on his work agenda after he assumes his post May 20, Chen said spiraling international food prices have brought about social instability in many countries, therefore he will give top priority to stabilizing food supplies and to ensuring food safety, so as to take care of local consumers and farmers.

He further said that should domestic fuel prices be raised in one “lump-sum” move after the inauguration of the new government May 20, the COA will earmark funds to subsidize fuel for domestic fishermen to operate their fishing boats.

The COA minister designate also promised to push for the early passage of a draft rural community renovation bill and an amendment to the National Pension Act to protect farmer’s rights and interests.

“As the National Pension Act will go into effect Oct. 1, the COA will ask all legislative caucuses to support the amendment aimed at preventing an increase of insurance premiums paid by local farmers,” Chen promised.

Under the new pension system, which will replace the farmers’ insurance program, farmers under the age of 65 will see their government-run farmers health insurance transferred to the national insurance system and they will have to pay more in insurance premiums, while the government birth subsidy they enjoy under the farmers’ insurance program will be canceled and the death subsidy reduced.

Describing the draft statute for rural community renovation as part of a third-stage farmland reform project, Chen said that the incoming administration will invest a total of NT$150 billion (US$4.6 billion) over the next 10 years to implement a rural community renovation program based on farmers’ needs.

Meanwhile, Chen said his council will help local farmers to effectively use the current 220,000 hectares of fallow farmland, replenish 60,000 hectares of forests over the next eight years, and set up three large forest amusement parks, with an area of 1,000 hectares each.