China Post, Taiwan
Gov’t signs letters of intent with Philippines in economic meetings
17 July 2011
By The China Post news staff
Taipei and Manila managed to reach various consensuses and sign two letters of intent during their just-concluded economic cooperation meetings in the Philippines, Taiwan’s economics minister said yesterday.
Economic officials from both sides met for two days in Manila for annual cooperation talks where they agreed on various issues, including preferential tariffs for Taiwan-based firms at two major Philippine ports, said Minister Shih Yen-hsiang.
They also signed two letters of intent for cooperation concerning the development of electric cars and an electronic certification mechanism, said Shih.
Shih arrived in Manila on Friday to meet his Philippine counterpart Gregory Domingo on the second day of the talks.
During their meeting, Domingo thanked Taiwan for helping his country narrow the digital gap with other members of the Asia Pacific Economic Forum (APEC), according to the Central News Agency. Both Taipei and Manila are APEC members.
He said the project to bridge the digital gap, conceived under the APEC framework, has proceeded into its second phase, the CNA reported.
Domingo also extended an invitation to Taiwan’s private companies to participate in infrastructure development in the Philippines, the CNA said.
Shih met with various Philippine officials and held two rounds of discussions with Taiwan-based businessmen during his stay in Manila before returning to Taipei yesterday.
At one of the discussions with Taiwanese businessmen, Shih said that Taipei is looking to sign a formal economic cooperation agreement (ECA) or free trade agreement (FTA) with Manila, but that may take time.
Taiwan is currently focusing on follow-up negotiations under the economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China, as well as talks with Singapore for an economic pact, Shih said.
Taiwan may not shift its focus to other countries until the current talks are over, he said.
He noted that many countries, including the Philippines, have shown interest in signing an FTA or ECA with Taiwan in the wake of the cross-strait ECFA.
But negotiations for such agreements are complicated and cannot be achieved easily, he said, citing the hard work and lengthy talks involved in securing the cross-strait ECFA.
“I hope overseas Taiwanese businessmen can wait for some more time patiently,” he was cited by the CNA as telling participants in the Manila discussions.
But he stressed that Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members, with a total population of over 500 million, now constitute the second biggest market for Taiwan.
ASEAN countries account for 16 percent of Taiwan’s exports, second only to China with 41 percent, the minister said.
Such a big market, which is also close to Taiwan, will be Taipei’s next target for a FTA or ECA, he said.
Shih also explained the difference between the government’s current and previous policies for developing trade relationships with Southeast Asian countries.
In the past, Taiwan put forth a so-called “south-bound” policy which saw Southeast Asia as a destination for setting up production bases, from which products would be shipped worldwide, he said.
But now Southeast Asia itself is a big market with strong growth predicted for the next 10 years, he said.