Taiwan president urges US to consider free trade pact

CNA | Monday May 29, 2006

Taiwan President Urges US To Consider Free Trade Pact

TAIPEI, May 29 Asia Pulse - President Chen Shui-bian urged the U.S. government Friday to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with Taiwan, saying that an FTA would allow U.S. agriculture and automobile exports to Taiwan to grow by 100 per cent.

If the United States were to sign an FTA with Taiwan, Chen said, the two countries would further open government procurement and investment programs to each other, thus bringing about more business cooperation opportunities.

During a meeting with Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Karan Bhatia at the Presidential Office, Chen noted that Taiwan’s seeking to enter an FTA with the United States harbors no political considerations, but is aimed at creating business and trade interests for both sides.

That is the reason why the U.S.-Taiwan FTA issue has been unanimously supported by legislators from across Taiwan’s political spectrum, Chen added.

Echoing a suggestion made by Bhatia the day before that the United States can strengthen economic and trade relations with Taiwan under a Close Economic Partnership (CEP) system rather than an FTA formula, Chen said this suggestion is welcome and appreciated.

Chen said that regardless of whether it is an FTA or a CEP, closer business and trade ties on substantive terms between the U.S. and Taiwan would have another "bonus" effect — that China would not be able to further isolate Taiwan in the international community or refuse to engage in dialogue with Taiwan.

The president said that the visit of Bhatia — the most senior U.S. official to visit Taiwan in six years — is particularly significant for Taiwan as it indicates that substantive bilateral relations between Taiwan and the United States remain intact even after misunderstandings surrounding a transit spat and controversy over the cessation of the National Unification Council and its guidelines.

Chen asked Bhatia to pass on his regards to President George W. Bush and reiterated that Taiwan’s promises to Bush and his administration will remain good forever.

Chen claimed that the United States and Taiwan are "one of a kind" allies of values and "best security and trade partners." Taiwan is the eighth-largest trade partner of the United States and its 10th-largest export outlet, with U.S. exports to Taiwan totaling US$22 billion in 2005, far surpassing those to Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia in the same year, he noted.

He said Taiwan has been one of the most important trade partners of the United States, equally important as Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and South Korea to the United States. The U.S. has signed FTAs with most of them and is currently negotiating with South Korea over the signing of an FTA.

Chen asked Bhatia that since the U.S. is conducting FTA negotiations with South Korea, why is it not seriously considering the same engagement with Taiwan? What South Korea can do, Taiwan can do and problems that South Korea encounters, Taiwan encounters too, he argued.

Bhatia is in Taipei for talks under the framework of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) , which was established between the American Institute in Taiwan and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in 1994 to resolve bilateral trade issues and enhance economic cooperation in the absence of formal diplomatic ties.

Issues being discussed at the fifth, two-day TIFA talks include agriculture, enforcement of intellectual property rights, pharmaceuticals and telecommunications policies.

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source: CNA