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President highlights smart distribution for free economic zones

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- President Ma Ying-jeou touted plans Sunday for a smart distribution system for Taiwan's free economic pilot zones, a development that he said will be a “small-scale revolution” for local trade.

During a visit to a company at the Port of Taipei, Ma said the system and express delivery for ocean shipping will revolutionize the way business is done and boost Taiwan's economic power. He mentioned few specifics but gave an estimated completion time of June.

The planned free economic pilot zones will focus on five highlighted sectors of Taiwan's economy — smart distribution, international health care, value-added agriculture, financial services and educational innovation.

The zones will be based around Taoyuan International Airport and Pingtung Agricultural Biotechnology Park along with six major seaports, including the Port of Taipei.

Touring Tonglit Logistics Co. at the port along with other top officials, Ma stressed the rapid improvement in ties with China seen under his administration, linking cross-strait relations to Taiwan's push to become a regional hub.

The government began plans to build Taiwan into a hub of the Asia-Pacific region 19 years ago, but the policy has not been implemented because Taiwan's transportation and logistics systems are not effectively linked with those of China, its largest trade partner.

The president dodged, however, questions about introducing expedited customs clearance across the Taiwan Strait and tariff-free exports of Taiwanese cars to China, saying that he will ask the “relevant” authorities to study the issues.

He meanwhile promised that the government would work for the interests of local companies when mapping free trade bloc strategies, including for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), both of which Taiwan has been keen to join.

According to Cabinet estimates, the pilot zones could attract an additional NT$21 billion (US$699.33 million) in private investment in 2014 and create 13,000 new jobs.

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