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Taiwan seeks FTA with Paraguay

FTA with Paraguay being pursued
By Jessie Ho
Tuesday, May 25, 2004, Page 10

Taiwan is probing the possibility of signing a free-trade agreement (FTA) with Paraguay, a government official confirmed yesterday.

The news came after President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) raised the issue with Paraguayan President Nicanor Duarte Frutos in Tainan on Sunday.

Chen said Taiwanese businesses could use Paraguay as a springboard to tap into the vast Southern Common Market, which is made up of Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. In return, Paraguay will be able to use Taiwan as a bridgehead to explore the Asia-Pacific market.

The two sides signed a joint communique yesterday at the Presidential Office at the end of Duarte’s six-day state visit.

Both leaders also confirmed that a bilateral economic cooperation conference will be held in the Paraguayan capital of Asuncion in July to further boost trade and economic exchanges.

After signing the joint communique, Chen reiterated his hope that the two countries would be able to sign a free-trade agreement within a year to facilitate bilateral trade, investment and economic cooperation.

Paraguay is the nation’s 96th largest trading partner, with bilateral trade volume worth about US$37 million last year.

An official at the Ministry of Economic Affairs said yesterday that Taiwan is waiting for Paraguay’s feedback on the proposed free-trade pact.

"Basically, we welcome any country, whether it has diplomatic ties with us or not, to initiate trade talks with us," Chan Lien-hsing (詹聯興), executive secretary of the Bureau of Foreign Trade’s division for free-trade agreements, told the Taipei Times.

Taiwan signed its first FTA with Panama last August and expects to sign a second one with Guatemala.

However, the timetable for negotiation was disrupted when the Guatemalan government was reshuffled at the end of last year, Chan said.

The government is also keen to sign an FTA with Japan, and research institutions of both countries are currently conducting feasibility studies for such a pact, Chan said.

The most eagerly sought free-trade partner is the US. However, talks with the US have been de-layed due to the opening of agricultural and pharmaceutical markets, as well as issues related to the protection of intellectual property rights.

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 source: FTA with Paraguay being pursued