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Taiwan-Singapore free trade talks in progress: premier

Focus Taiwan News Channel

Taiwan-Singapore free trade talks in progress: premier

17 February 2012

By Lin Hui-chun and Jamie Wang

Taipei, Feb. 17 (CNA) Premier Sean Chen rebutted Friday speculations that the free trade talks between Taiwan and Singapore have been delayed, saying they are in progress.

The two sides started negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA) in May 2011 with the aim of inking the deal within a year. Speculations that the talks have been delayed have arisen as no breakthrough has been made since then.

Chen said there is no timetable between the two sides, adding that the talks are continuing and setting a fixed timetable may be disadvantageous for future negotiations.

He said Taiwan’s trade competitors have been active in attempts to form regional trade blocs with other countries. Once FTAs are signed between them, the situation will be very unfavorable for Taiwan, he said.

"Therefore, the government is now racing against both time and the competitors," he said.

The premier said that following the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) between Taiwan and China and the warming relations across the Taiwan Strait, the feasibility of signing FTAs with other nations has increased.

The ECFA was signed in June 2010 and became effective in Septemberthat year. An "early harvest" program under the pact that givespreferential tariffs or easier market access to over 500 items ofproducts from both sides started in January 2011.

However, he stressed that the time needed to ink an FTA varies, citing the example of China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations taking three to four years to sign a trade agreement.

Asked by reporters if Taiwan can adopt the "early harvest" mechanism with other countries, Chen said it would not be easybecause the mechanism is rare in normal trade deals.