TAIPEI -- The construction of Taoyuan Aerotropolis has been given the go-ahead. The giant development project in northern Taiwan aims to develop the area around Taoyuan International Airport into a major transport hub and industry center for Asia with infrastructure for corporate research and development and logistics, conference centers and other facilities. Land acquisitions for the project are to begin later this year. The project is scheduled to be completed in 10 to 20 years.
Wu Chih-yang, mayor of Taoyuan County, recently spoke with The Nikkei about specific measures for successful development. Excerpts from the interview follow.
Q: Taoyuan Aerotropolis is an election promise of President Ma Ying-jeou and the largest city planning project ever for Taiwan.
A: It is an important project for Taiwan. We have already prepared 500 hectares of industrial area and started attracting investment there. Also, a third terminal and runway is to be built to make Taoyuan Airport more competitive, which is good for the project. We expect the project to generate 2.3 trillion New Taiwan dollars ($76.2 billion) in economic effects.
The plan was approved by the Ministry of the Interior at the end of last year. We are going to start land expropriation and want to complete it by 2019. First, we plan to quickly acquire land for conference and exhibition centers. We'll also make the housing area a smart city with plenty of green space.
Q: What types of industry do you want to attract?
A: We want to have a concentration of many facilities related to intellectual property, such as corporate research and development centers. We'll also target logistics, tourism and other industries that use the airport.
Taiwan needs to change its industrial structure because manufacturers have transferred operations to mainland China and Southeast Asia. We want the service industry to develop as it has in Hong Kong and Singapore. We also want to attract a wide range of human resources from around the world so we can compete with the pilot free trade zone in Shanghai and other such areas.
Q: There are many similar projects in Asia. What would be Aerotropolis' advantage?
A: The availability of both air transportation through Taoyuan Airport and maritime transportation through the Port of Taipei. The resort area, which will include conference and exhibition centers, will cover 200 hectares, about 10 times the size as the corresponding area in Singapore. Another advantage is that the project is not very far from major cities in Asia. Aerotropolis is also expected to be designated as a free-economy model area where corporate workers from abroad can receive tax breaks. We can expect synergistic effects of these advantages.
Recently, many foreign companies, including 3M and YKK, have set up R&D centers in Taiwan. Even though their chief markets may be in mainland China, it would be advantageous for them to take a safer risk by choosing Taiwan for their R&D facilities because we have adequate legislation to protect intellectual property rights. Since cross-strait relations are good these days, these companies are less likely to experience trouble if they move into mainland China in cooperation with Taiwanese companies.
Q: Japanese companies, such as Mitsubishi Corp. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, have also decided to cooperate in this project.
A: When I visited Japan (in January) to invite companies to participate, I saw an electric bus, the Yurikamome transit system, a household energy management system and other new developments. For Aerotropolis, we plan to construct about 20 MRT (rapid transit) stations and a shopping mall. I think Japanese companies have a great chance (to participate) because they can show their strength in these fields.
Interviewed by Nikkei staff writer Kazunari Yamashita