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Philippines does not rule out free trade pact with Taiwan

Focus Taiwan News Channel

Philippines does not rule out free trade pact with Taiwan

By Emerson Lim and Fanny Liu

6 August 2010

Manila, Aug. 6 (CNA) The Philippine government will not rule out the possibility of negotiating a free trade package with Taiwan, even though it only officially recognizes China under its "one-China" policy, a senior Philippine trade official said Friday.

After Singapore and Taiwan issued a joint statement Thursday that they would explore the feasibility of a bilateral economic cooperation pact, the Philippines Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Assistant Secretary Ramon Vicente T. Kabigting contemplated a similar deal with Taiwan.

He said it would be ideal if the Philippines and Taiwan could forge closer economic and trade ties as Taiwan is a major export market and an important source of foreign investment, Kabigting told a Philippine TV station.

Though the Philippines follows a "one-China" policy, it has always considered Taiwan a major trade partner, Kabigting said, and he believed that a landmark trade deal recently signed by Taiwan and China and Thursday’s announcement between Taiwan and Singapore would make it easier for the Philippines to follow suit.

Meanwhile, a local official, who declined to be identified, confirmed the same day that economic and trade officials from the Philippines and Taiwan exchanged views on signing a free trade agreement (FTA) , on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministerial Meeting in Japan from Aug. 5-6.

However, both the official and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines refused to provide more details about the discussions.

Before the new administration of President Benigno Aquino III took office on June 30, economic authorities from the Philippines had already expressed an interest in signing a trade deal with Taiwan.

Earlier this year, Jesli A. Lapus, the former DTI secretary, said that the Philippine government hopes to upgrade the existing memorandum of cooperation on the Subic-Clark-Kaohsiung economic corridor, to a national-level FTA.

According to the Central Bank of the Philippines, Taiwan is the 13th-largest export market for the Philippines, accounting for about 3.5 percent of the Philippines’ total exports in 2009.

Taiwan is also the Southeast Asian country’s 13th-largest source of overseas investment. Taiwanese businesses invested US$13.4 billion in the Philippines in 2009, central bank figures show.