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ECFA separate from any similar U.S. plan, says AIT

Taiwan News, Taipei

ECFA separate from any similar U.S. plan, says AIT

Central News Agency

31 March 2009

A potential free trade agreement (FTA) between the United States and Taiwan would have no direct link to Taiwan’s proposed economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China, according to a senior U.S. official in Taipei.

The statement by Robert Wang, deputy director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Taipei Office, was the first official U.S. response to the Taiwan government’s suggestion that an ECFA with China could help to open the way for FTA negotiations with other countries. "We don’t see a U.S.-Taiwan free trade agreement linked in any direct way with an ECFA or other agreements," Wang said at a recent roundtable discussion that marked the 30th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA).

One of the discussion topics was the U.S. policy perspective on the theory that an ECFA between China and Taiwan would smooth the path for the U.S. and some other countries to sign FTAs with Taiwan.

While the U.S. encourages Taiwan and China to enhance economic ties, the U.S. would focus on bilateral FTA discussions, if any, and how beneficial such an economic pact would be to the U.S., Wang said. However, although the possibility of a U.S.-Taiwan FTA is not off the table, the AIT deputy director said, at present it is "very difficult" to achieve.

The possibility of signing an ECFA with Beijing has been heatedly discussed over the past month, with the Taiwan government repeatedly saying that an economic agreement with China is vital to maintaining Taiwan’s competitiveness in the world market and avoiding marginalization when China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) form a free trade area in 2010.

President Ma Ying-jeou said March 18 that the regional economic integration that is taking shape around the ASEAN does not include Taiwan, mainly because China has tried everything possible to block Taiwan’s efforts to sign FTAs with other countries.