Episode Description

The Ma administration is currently promoting a plan to develop what it’s calling Free Economic Pilot Zones in a number of locations around Taiwan as a way of testing out economic deregulation that it says will pave the way for market liberalization and increased trade.

However, key provisions of the plan have failed to make it past stern opposition in the Legislative Yuan and the debate over the economic merits of the proposed reforms are ongoing.


To help us understand the Ma administration’s case for the project, we spoke with the head of the National Development Council, the agency that drew up the plans for the zones.


Guest: National Development Council Minister Kuan Chung-ming.

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Recommended reading

First some quick background: As the first step in the plan, the Executive Yuan last year loosened regulations for participating businesses in the eight pilot zones located around Taiwan. Some of the reforms the government now hopes to pass include tax incentives for businesses in the zones, exemptions from certain customs duties, and the elimination of import bans for certain goods from China.

  • You can check out this government website explaining the project.
  • Recent efforts to review legislation to enact some of the projects more contentious provisions have made little progress and have been marked by protest.
  • Here’s an article that details some of the arguments Minister Kuan Chung-ming is making in favor of the project.
  • President Ma Ying-jeou making the case for the zones: He says Taiwan lags behind other countries in terms of the value of goods covered by free trade agreements.
  • Here’s one of the clearer articles explaining the debate centered on allowing Chinese agricultural products into the pilot zones.
  • Some labor groups are warning about loosening restrictions on foreign labor.
  • Here’s some polling that give a sense of how the public feels about the plan. The Taipei Times reports: “Most people appeared to have been skeptical about the free economic pilot zones project, which aims to serve as a model for business liberalization, with 85 percent of respondents saying that they did not understand the project well and 91.5 percent urging the government to clearly explain it to the public, think tank chairman Wu Rong-i (吳榮義) said.

This list is intended for anyone trying to learn more about this week’s topic. If you feel like I missed something, please let me know in the comments, and if it seems relevant I’ll add it in.

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