Taipei Times | Sunday, May 10, 2009
Ma calls for fresh talks on FTA with Singapore
By Mo Yan-chih
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) expressed confidence in relations with Singapore under his administration and said he expected Taiwan to sign a free-trade agreement (FTA) with Singapore.
In an interview with two Singapore newspapers, the Straits Times and the Chinese-language Lianhe Zaobao, on Friday, Ma urged Singapore to resume talks on an FTA, suggesting Taiwan sign an FTA with Singapore under the name it uses at the WTO, “The Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu.”
Singapore is Taiwan’s sixth-largest trade partner and bilateral trade between the two countries is about US$16 billion per year, Ma said, yet FTA talks stopped about five years ago.
“Taiwan hopes to continue its past efforts and sign an FTA with Singapore,” he was quoted as saying in the interview, which was published by the two papers yesterday.
On Taiwan’s obtaining observer status at the World Health Assembly (WHA) this year, Ma said the country would try to make contributions in the health and medical fields at the WHA.
The country has no immediate plans to apply for membership at any other international organizations, he said.
Ma said cross-strait relations had allowed Taiwan to participate in the WHA and his administration would continue seeking closer ties with China under the principle of “economy first.”
“I think our strategy of maintaining peaceful relations with mainland China is obviously a successful one,” he said.
Ma said cross-strait talks would address economic issues before moving on to political issues, and the government is focusing current efforts on an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA).
The two sides of the Taiwan Strait may continue to put off political issues, Ma said, addressing them in 2012 if he is re-elected.
In response to criticism by the Democratic Progressive Party, Ma said the nine agreements reached in three rounds of negotiations with China had been disclosed to the public and had not damaged Taiwan’s sovereignty.
Asked whether Taiwan would follow the example of Singapore by setting up a bureau to investigate corruption, Ma said the willpower of a country’s leader was more important.
“Singapore is doing a good job [in fighting corruption] because the government takes it seriously ... The willpower of the leader is key to anti-corruption work,” Ma said.