Focus Taiwan 2013/01/07
Taiwan-Singapore trade pact near final stage: officials
Taipei, Jan. 7 (CNA) — Talks on a Taiwan-Singapore free trade agreement "have nearly concluded" and are expected to yield a result in the first half of 2013, Taiwanese officials said Monday.
Discussions on the Agreement between Singapore and the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu on Economic Partnership (ASTEP), which began in May 2011, are heading into the final stretch, said Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Bill Cho.
Most chapters of the deal have already been completed, with only some details remaining to be resolved, said Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin, who added that he hopes the agreement can be concluded by June.
The officials were responding to questions from ruling Kuomintang Legislator Lin Yu-fang on how Taiwan will respond to the various regional trade agreements signed between neighboring countries, such as a free trade pact being discussed by China, Japan and South Korea.
Turning to the issue of an economic cooperation agreement with the European Union, which requires a consensus within the EU, Cho said the Ministry of Economic Affairs has contacted many EU members and many of their enterprises have positive views about such a trade deal with Taiwan.
Back in 2011 when the Taiwan-Singapore talks began, economic officials said they were focused on tariffs, the opening of the service sector and economic partnerships.
Through the ASTEP, Taiwan may be able to enter agricultural markets in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, they said.
Focus is also on the opening of Singapore’s financial sector, which has many restrictions on foreign financial service providers, they added.
Singapore is Taiwan’s sixth-largest trade partner, fifth-largest importer and ninth-largest source of imports, according to a press release from the Taipei Representative Office in Singapore.
In 2011, the two sides’ bilateral trade values totaled US$24.84 billion, up 25.85 percent from the previous year, with Taiwan’s export value at US$16.88 billion and import value at US$7.96 billion, the release said.
(By Emmanuelle Tzeng and Kendra Lin)