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Ma touts FTAs as way to revive flagging economy

Taipei Times, Taiwan

Ma touts FTAs as way to revive flagging economy

By Mo Yan-chih / Staff reporter

22 July 2012

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday pledged to speed up trade liberalization and raise the nation’s international competitiveness by seeking to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) within the next eight years and signing free-trade agreements (FTA) with major trade partners.

Speaking at a forum on the impact of economic globalization and trade liberalization on local industries, the president said Taiwan is 10 years behind other Asian countries in pushing forward economic and trade liberalization, stressing the urgency for Taiwan to open up local markets and embrace regional economic integration.

“We need to wake up and work harder to keep up with other nations. Our goal is to eliminate obstacles and adjust our mindset. There’s give and take in signing FTAs with trade partners, and so we must understand that to take something, we should also make some compromises,” he said.

The signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China, Ma said, is the government’s first step to revive the economy and speed up economic and trade liberalization.

The government is in the process of negotiating FTAs with Singapore and New Zealand, both members of the TPP, and signing FTAs with TPP members would give the nation more advantages in negotiating an FTA with the US and eventually joining the TPP, he said.

The Ma administration is seeking to join the TPP within the next eight years. It is also pushing for bilateral talks with the US over the stalled Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), which has been put aside for the past five years because of disputes over US beef imports.

Ma has argued that resuming the negotiations over the TIFA and signing FTAs or economic pacts with the US and other countries is a pressing matter for Taiwan as the nation must avoid being marginalized as the region integrates economically.

The nation’s exports suffered a 5 percent decline so far this year compared with last year, Ma said. Although the unemployment rate continued to drop, Ma said the nation’s economic outlook is still far from rosy amid the continuing global financial crisis.

While stressing Taiwan’s urgent need to facilitate economic liberalization, Ma said the Ministry of Economic Affairs would help local industries transform their business models or make other adjustments necessary to survive liberalization.