Taipei, Jan. 8 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou said Wednesday that Taiwan will continue to push for the establishment of a free economic pilot zone and promote efforts to join regional free trade blocs.
Ma said Taiwan must pursue the goal of transforming into a free trade island or free economic island if it is to compete with Singapore, Hong Kong, and other countries and areas.
The president said that since his re-election in 2012, he has stepped up preparations for turning Taiwan into a free economic island in the hope of being admitted to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed U.S.-led Pacific free trade area.
Since late last year, Ma, the Executive Yuan and the Council for Economic Planning and Development (CEPD) have also been mapping out strategies for joining the TPP and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a grouping of member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and its FTA partners, as soon as possible.
"In Taiwan, meanwhile, we'll push for a free economic pilot zone," the president said.
Such a strategy will on one hand remove trade barriers, and on the other, show the country's sincerity and determination in pushing for liberalization, he said.
"Taiwan will continue to liberalize on a big scale," he added.
Ma said that if the scale of liberalization is insufficient, "and if we don't adjust our mindset, how can we expect others to treat us in the same way?"
He said that through the promotion of the free economic pilot zone and various moves toward deregulation, foreign businesses in Taiwan can learn that "this time, Taiwan is serious."
Ma, who doubles as chairman of the ruling Kuomintang, made the remarks after hearing a report by CEPD head Kuan Chung-ming on the free economic pilot zone issue at a KMT meeting.
Ma also noted that Taiwan lags far behind Singapore and South Korea in terms of the item values covered by FTAs.
He cited as an example that in 2013, among Taiwan's foreign trade, items covered by FTAs accounted for just US$9.65 in every US$100, compared with US$36.1 for South Korea and US$70.7 for Singapore.
"If we can't catch up with them, how can we compete with them?" Ma asked.
(By Lee Shu-hua and Lilian Wu)