Central News Agency | 2009-02-24
Taiwan pursuing free trade pacts with ASEAN states
Taipei, Feb. 24 (CNA) — Taiwan is pushing for bilateral free trade agreements with individual Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members as a more feasible way for the country to participate in regional economic integration, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said Tuesday.
Because Taiwan is neither an ASEAN dialogue or development partner, it will be more difficult for the country to forge a free trade pact with the association as a whole than taking a bilateral approach, said Frances Lee, deputy director-general of MOFA’s Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, in a press briefing.
With ASEAN countries looking to set up a free trade zone with China, Japan and South Korea as early as 2010, Taiwan is afraid of being economically marginalized in the region.
If it is left behind in the integration process, its goods sold to countries in the region will face higher duties than those offered by its main competitors.
Taiwan is currently focusing its efforts on negotiating with ASEAN countries that have greater trade ties with Taiwan, including Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, as bilateral free trade deals with those countries would be mutually beneficial, Lee said.
Taiwan may also try to work out special arrangements with individual ASEAN nations to lower tariffs in specific industries, which would have a similar impact as a free trade deal, she said.
Lee stressed that Taiwan already has close economic ties with ASEAN states, as overall trade with the association’s 10 members totaled US$63 billion last year. Taiwan is also among the top three sources of foreign investment in Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia.
Meanwhile, around 2 million people traveled between Taiwan and ASEAN countries in 2008, while there were approximately 357,000 migrant workers from Southeast Asia employed in Taiwan as of the end of last year, Lee said.
(By Jian Chen)