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May 28, 2017

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Premier hopes for fast passing of FEPZ bill

TAIPEI--Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) said Tuesday that legislation on Taiwan's Free Economic Pilot Zone (FEPZ) project will be a top priority during an extra session of the Legislature later this month, but he may not get his wish for speedy passage of the bill.

At a breakfast meeting with entrepreneurs, the premier said the bill on the pilot zones has been in lawmakers' hands for quite a while, but the review process has been slow, with only a few of the 70 articles completed because of opposition filibusters.

He urged the public to move toward the goal of turning Taiwan into a free economic island, arguing that the pilot zones represented a "limited" and "pragmatic" experiment to align the country with the rest of the world and upgrade its competitive edge.

He said that if the experiment were to succeed, it would boost Taiwan's bid to participate in regional trade blocs such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

The legislative caucuses of the ruling and opposition parties had differing views of the bill's prospects in the extraordinary session.

Lin Hung-chih (林鴻池), executive director of the ruling Kuomintang's Policy Committee, said all parties must sit down and talk regardless of whether they have different stances.

Lin expressed the hope that opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers would not set preconditions for the bill's review so that it could proceed in committee.

KMT Legislator Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順), a convener of the Legislature's Economics Committee, said the bill has been discussed since last year without getting anywhere because of the DPP's flip-flopping.

She urged the DPP not to oppose the bill for opposition's sake or oppose any measure simply because it involves China and allow all parties to discuss the issue rationally.

Asked if the bill can be passed in the extraordinary session, Huang was less than optimistic, saying "it's probably not possible."

DPP's Attitude

Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘), a DPP caucus whip, said that it would be "difficult" for the bill to get through committee during the extra session because of the low professional standard of its content.

He criticized the logic and structure of the government's bill, and said issues such as the role of Chinese funds in the zone have to be made clear for any progress to be made.

Ultimately, however, the situation will only become clear after Legislature Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) holds a bipartisan coordination meeting on June 12, Ker said.

Another economics official, meanwhile, touted the free economic pilot zone project Tuesday.

Kao Shien-quay, chief secretary of the National Development Council, said the special zones will help Taiwan become a free economic island and could contribute NT$30 billion to this year's gross domestic product and create 10,000 new jobs.

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