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Cut wages, sign FTAs, says pro-industry forum

Taipei Times, Taiwan

Cut wages, sign FTAs, says pro-industry forum

BUSINESS AS USUAL::The group of wealthy directors urged the government to sign trade deals and said the minimum wage should be changed less frequently

By Crystal Hsu / Staff reporter

8 August 2012

Industrial heavyweights yesterday urged the government to speed up the signing of free-trade agreements with major trading partners and take concrete steps to make the nation more business-friendly.

The business leaders made the plea during a news conference in Taipei in time with the release of the Chinese National Federation of Industries’ (CNFI, 全國工業總會) annual white paper.

“The government should map out a forward-looking set of industrial development, energy and labor policies to attract the return of Taiwanese firms from abroad,” CNFI chairman Rock Hsu (許勝雄) said.

The government could help Taiwanese firms catch up with their South Korean rivals by expanding the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China and securing free-trade agreements (FTAs) with Southeast Asian nations, Hsu said.

The trade pacts would allow Taiwanese exports favorable tariff terms so that they can better compete on the global stage.

Hsu, also chairman of notebook computer maker Compal Electronics Co (仁寶), said the government should allow a high-ranking agency to take control of the matter as the current administration appears inadequate at both coordination and communication.

The government should also provide incentives for Japanese firms to set up overseas backup facilities in Taiwan and for Chinese firms to establish research and development and procurement offices here, Hsu said.

“The benefits of the ECFA would be weakened if China and Japan signed a free-trade agreement,” Hsu said. “The government must speed up the pace of helping Taiwanese firms with their plans for global expansion.”

Metal casing manufacturer Catcher Technology Co (可成), for example, could generate 3,000 jobs if it moved back to Taiwan, Hsu said.

Toward that end, the government should review labor wages only every three years rather than its current annual basis, Hsu said.

The annual talks about wage hikes create unnecessary headaches for employers, Hsu said, adding that the government can better help laborers by adopting policies to increase work opportunities.

“Employers will raise wages when the job market tightens,” he said.

CNFI deputy secretary-general Leslie Koo (辜成允) said the government should think long term when formulating industrial development policies.

Policymakers should focus on meeting macroeconomic challenges five or 10 years from now and make reforms accordingly, whether they entail educational and professional trainings or improvement of the overall investment environment, Koo said.

Koo, who is also chairman of Taiwan Cement Corp (台泥), said that the government is well aware of the need for reform, but lacks the resolve to push them through.