Taiwanese seek talks on Fujian zone plan

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 March, 2012, 12:00am


Taiwan has called on the mainland to discuss a Fujian-based special economic zone under the provisions of the Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement (ECFA).

The move is an attempt to ease a row over whether Beijing is using the zone as a trap to turn Taiwan into one of its special administrative regions.

Pingtan Experimental Development Zone, an industrial park approved by the central government for a fishing village in Fujian , facing Taiwan's Hsinchu city, recently became a hot topic on the island because of its 'one country, two systems' feel.

The mainland-friendly Taipei government of President Ma Ying-jeou has suspected that Beijing might try to use the project to create a model to ultimately turn Taiwan into a special administrative region, like Hong Kong and Macau.

But Beijing has insisted it has never considered using the experimental zone in that way, despite proposing joint management with Taiwan.

Commenting on the controversial project for the first time, Ma said it should be discussed in line with the ECFA's Article 6, which calls for negotiation of any joint economic co-operation projects.

'That is the most practical way to deal with [the issue], given that the government must always look at any issue from the perspective of its benefits to Taiwan,' Ma said.

Taiwanese premier Sean Chen also said last Friday that the best way to discuss the project was under the ECFA. Chen told the legislature that this could help Taiwan identify the mainland's true motives and avoid any political snags.

The ECFA is a semi-free-trade pact signed by Taiwan and the mainland in 2010, one of a series of non-political co-operation and exchange agreements signed by the two sides since Ma took office in 2008.

The Pingtan project was first suggested in 2003 as part of a plan to develop Fujian. President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have backed the project, hoping it might become a base for Taiwanese businesses.

Under the plan, the mainland authorities would recruit more than 1,000 Taiwanese professionals to work in the zone, offering handsome pay and fringe benefits.

They would also encourage Taiwanese firms to set up branches or make other investment plans there.

The pro-independence camp in Taiwan, however, doubts the mainland's intentions. 'In addition to its political motive, the project itself would help to further hollow out our economy,' said Lin Shih-chia, a Taiwan Solidarity Union legislator.