Taiwan confident of winning FTA support

China Post, Taiwan

Taiwan confident of winning FTA support

31 March 2007

WASHINGTON, CNA - Pointing out that few problems exist in business and trade exchanges between Taiwan and the United States, a Taiwan economics official said Thursday that he is confident Taiwan will win the U.S. private sector’s support for the signing of a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries.

Fielding questions during an online forum at washingtonpost.com., Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Fadah Hsieh said that due to the extremely close economic relationship that Taiwan has with the United States as well as to Taiwan’s efforts to address related U.S. concerns over the past few years, very few outstanding issues remain in the sphere of U.S.-Taiwan trade.

However, Hsieh continued, there are still some improvements that need to be made in the areas of pharmaceutical products and agriculture.

"We are confident that these issues will be properly addressed in the near future and that the resolution of such issues will help to increase support among U.S.industries for negotiations on a Taiwan-U.S. FTA," he said.

Hsieh made the remarks when he and John Chen-Chung Deng, current deputy representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States, were taking questions online on the prospects and challenges of a U.S.-Taiwan free trade deal.

At the start of the forum, titled "A Path Worth Taking ? The Prospects and Challenges of a U.S.-Taiwan Free Trade Deal," the host of the forum said that "in recent years, the creation of numerous free trade agreements around the world has triggered a chain reaction, as countries fearing exclusion move forward to establish their own regional FTAs. Taiwan, the world’s 16th-largest trading power and the United States’ ninth-largest trading partner, has indicated its desire for an FTA with the United States."

"Taiwan’s technology based economy and role as a doorway to China’s market offers a larger potential trading relationship than any other country currently negotiating an FTA with the United States," the host said.

After pointing out that "some feel that a U.S.-Taiwan FTA would send an unmistakable signal of U.S. support for democratic Taiwan, while others believe such a trade deal would complicate the United States’ relations in the region," the host then asked : Is a U.S.-Taiwan trade pact a path worth taking ?"

In response, Hsieh said that Taiwan is in a good position to begin negotiations on an FTA with the United States, adding that Taiwan’s government has already reformed many of its policies regarding the few trade barriers cited by the United States, including those in the pharmaceuticals sector, as well as strengthened its intellectual property rights protection.

As will also probably be the case in the United States, Hsieh said, some industries in Taiwan will face increased competition as a result of an FTA. However, he said, Taiwan’s economy is relatively open in most manufacturing sectors and many areas of the service sector. The agriculture sector, by contrast, has liberalized to a lesser extent, although many tariff barriers have been lowered as a result of Taiwan’s accession to the WTO in 2002.

"The Taiwan government already has in place a number of programs to encourage Taiwan’s farmers to specialize in horticultural products and higher value-added production. This is meant to help them adjust to the opening up of the market that has taken place so far," Hsieh noted.

"The rice sector is one area that will need special attention from the government as Taiwan’s economy continues to undergo liberalization. Direct financial assistance to farmers by the government (not tied to production) is one of the ways under consideration to manage the transition. Training in shifting to other crops could be undertaken, as can programs to improve product quality and assist with marketing efforts as farmers move into new product lines," he added.

source: