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Economic pilot zone bill to be submitted before '14

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Draft special regulations for the free economic pilot zones will be submitted to the Legislature for review by the end of the year, and the legislative approval process is expected to be completed by June next year, said Jan Fang-guan (詹方冠), a planning section head at the Council for Economic Planning and Development (CEPD), yesterday.

The draft regulations allow for a greater degree of freedom in legal, accounting and architectural practices in the pilot zones, according to Jan, who added that the new regulations meet the requirements expected to be set by developed nations as they negotiate free trade agreements (FTA) with Taiwan.

Further liberalizing regulations in these fields indicates Taiwan's determination to open up its service industries through the launch of the pilot zones, Jan said.

Taiwan's Effort in Economic Integration

Jan compared trade volumes between South Korea and Taiwan, and said that South Korea has been actively pursuing FTAs with other countries since 2000, and at the current pace of its signing FTAs, South Korea's trade volume is expected to outrun Taiwan's by three-fold, threatening Taiwan's competitiveness.

A main reason for Taiwan to launch its free economic pilot zone project is to promote its integration into the global economic community, especially the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

Jan said that the government is studying the scope of the FTA between the U.S. and South Korea, and decided to extend the scope of professional services in an effort to make Taiwan's pilot zone comparable to the FTA between South Korea and the U.S. Not only will Taiwan's pilot zone be highly liberalized, it will also surpass standards set in the framework promulgated by the World Trade Organization, Jan said.

Taiwan joined the WTO relatively late when compared with other member countries. Since the WTO made more requests of its member countries that joined at later stages, the business environment in Taiwan is in fact highly liberalized compared with many developed countries, Jan said, adding that only professional services are moderately constrained in Taiwan.

Education and International Medicine

Innovation in education is one of the development focuses in the pilot zones. Local universities may partner with universities from abroad to establish experimental universities. This measure is expected to loosen school restrictions on tuition and students, as well as encourage liberalization of education-related regulations.

International medicine and health services is another development focus in the pilot zone. Jan said that the draft regulations for the pilot zones stipulate a feedback plan and limits the number of hours a doctor can practice in the pilot zones.

After the draft regulations are approved, local governments may submit applications to set up pilot zones. Jan said that related mechanisms and standards will be set up to review applications submitted by local governments.

The manufacturing and service sectors in the pilot zones will be open for investment by individuals from mainland China, who will follow the same set of rules as other foreign investors.

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