President Tsai opposes increased economic integration with China

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“We should not make Taiwan products indistinguishable from Chinese products. This is the reason why we oppose the establishment of FEPZs,” President Tsai Ing-wen said to Facebook and other social media on May 6. (Courtesy of LINE)

TAIPEI (CNA) — The issue of a Free Economic Pilot Zone (FEPZ) has triggered a war of words between the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) personally joining the battle.

“We should not make Taiwan products indistinguishable from Chinese products. This is the reason why we oppose the establishment of FEPZs,” Tsai said to Facebook on May 6.

Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), who could represent the KMT in the January 2020 Presidential Election, suggested in early March creating an FEPZ in his city to attract investment from China.

“We firmly reject FEPZs because the party and local leaders who raised the idea only want to use them to tie up Taiwan with China,” Tsai contended in her post, arguing that products manufactured in China could easily be labeled as Taiwan-made simply by laundering them through FEPZs.

Tsai, who is facing a primary challenge within her own party for the DPP’s presidential nomination, said she was puzzled why FEPZs were brought up amid the United States-China trade war, saying FEPZs could put Taiwan at risk of Washington’s retaliatory measures against Beijing or of being hit with punitive tariffs.

She argued that what Taiwan needs is not the creation of FEPZs, but the upgrading of its industries, expansion of domestic demand and to invest globally.

Han contended Monday, however, that FEPZs could bring an economic rebirth of Kaohsiung through tax breaks and lower duties and an easing of regulations on capital and personnel hiring.

The mayor said FEPZs will be beneficial and useful to Kaohsiung because the city has already an airport and a sea port.

The Executive Yuan responded to Han by saying the government was not considering the idea.

Meanwhile, DPP spokesman Chou Chiang-chieh (周江杰) described the creation of FEPZs as “pushing Taiwan’s economy toward self-destruction,” arguing that the laundering of Chinese products in Taiwan would eventually “destroy Taiwanese brands.”

Former New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫), another KMT presidential hopeful, disagreed, saying it would be difficult to label Chinese products as “Made in Taiwan” because strict regulations on the product origins exist.

“Today, many Taiwanese products and components are called ‘Made in China.’ Isn’t it better for us to produce goods locally and turn them into Made in Taiwan?” Chu said.

He said establishing FEPZs in Taiwan was a common election platform of KMT candidates and was in line with global trends.

By Yeh Su-ping, Wang Shu-fen, Yu Hsiang and Emerson Lim