A local economist yesterday criticized a proposal by opposition Kuomintang vice presidential candidate Vincent Siew to develop Taiwan into a free trade zone as "more of a loss than a gain," claiming that such an opening would harm local manufacturers and workers.
Chen Po-chih, chairman of the non-profit policy research organization Taiwan Thinktank, made the comment in a speech titled "The Direction and Strategies of International Cooperation" at a conference held by the Industrial Development Bureau on industrial upgrading.
Chen, who once served as minister of the Council for Economic Planning and Development, said no country will be willing to open its doors to Taiwan just because Taiwan opens its own for barrier-free trading.
Under World Trade Organization regulations in terms of most-favored nation treatment, any WTO member that opens its market and offers privileged trading treatment to another member is obliged to treat all other members in the same way, unless the opening is part of a mutual free trade agreement, Chen explained.
"Will there be a country willing to open its doors to the whole world only because Taiwan unilaterally opens its own and that country wants to do the same thing for Taiwan?" the economist asked.
Once they get the Taiwan market, the foreign countries will never want to "sacrifice" theirs, which Chen claimed would be the result of an FTZ. He further claimed that Taiwan's opening its market would put the country in a situation in which foreign economies would take advantage of the Taiwan market, while Taiwan would not have access to theirs.