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Taiwan eyes more trade pacts with major partners

Taiwan Today

Taiwan eyes more trade pacts with major partners

By Meg Chang

2 February 2012

Fast-tracking free trade agreement negotiations with Taiwan’s major partners will be a top priority for the Ministry of Economic Affairs, MOEA Minister Shih Yen-shiang said Feb. 1.

“The government is stepping up efforts to achieve greater regional economic integration for Taiwan by prioritizing trade discussions with Singapore, the U.S. and mainland China,” Shih said.

Acknowledging that U.S. beef imports are a stumbling block to further talks with Washington under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, the minister said senior MOEA officials had discussed the issue with Raymond F. Burghardt, chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan, during his visit.

“We are also working with the Council of Agriculture and Department of Health to come up with the best solution to this problem,” he added.

Shih said he expects to see the proposed Agreement between Singapore and the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu on Economic Partnership (ASTEP) move closer to becoming a reality this year.

Sources familiar with the issue claim officials from the two countries have now reached consensus on matters that were proving troublesome, meeting several times late last year.

With South Korea and mainland China set to commence FTA negotiations next month, Shih said there is increasing impetus for further trade talks with Beijing under the Cross-Straits Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA).

“We will hold more meetings with Beijing this year on commodity trade, services, investment protection and dispute settlement,” Shih said.

The MOEA also plans to encourage Israel and the Philippines to embark upon FTA feasibility studies as per the Taiwan-New Zealand model.

“The time is ripe to take the next step in developing Taiwan’s trade relations with these nations,” Shih said. “We expect to make significant progress in the short term and should have studies scheduled by the end of the year.” (JSM)