CNA | 2012/07/06
Taiwan, South Korea start talks on investment pact
Taipei, July 6 (CNA) — Taiwan has started talks with South Korea on a bilateral investment protection agreement, Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Francis Liang said Friday.
South Korean daily Chosun Ilbo said in a front-page story that the two countries held the first round of talks on the issue in Taipei late last month and are scheduled to hold a second round of talks in Seoul in October.
Liang confirmed that the two sides met in late June to discuss the feasibility of signing an investment protection agreement to boost bilateral trade, investment and economic cooperation.
He would not confirm, however, whether a second round of talks has been scheduled for October.
"South Korea is one of our important trading partners. Both countries feel positive about sealing an investment protection accord to create a better trade and investment environment by offering better protection for investors from either side," the official said.
Because the negotiations are still ongoing, Liang said he was not in a position to reveal details about the content or schedule of the talks.
"It’s inappropriate for us to unilaterally reveal the timing for the next round of talks before both sides reach a consensus on the issue," he said.
On Taiwan’s proposal that the two countries sign an economic cooperation agreement (ECA) to reduce trade barriers and enhance economic partnerships, Chang Chun-fu, director-general of the MOEA’s Bureau of Foreign Trade, said Thursday that South Korea is not fundamentally opposed to such an idea.
"As to when and how such talks should get started, that will require further discussion," Chang said.
According to the Chosun Ilbo, Taiwan took the initiative to strike an investment protection agreement with South Korea after the latter’s free trade agreements (FTAs) with the European Union and the United States took effect.
If Taiwan signs an investment protection pact with South Korea, the paper said, more Taiwanese companies will be interested in investing there to cash in on the benefits generated from South Korea’s FTAs with the U.S. and EU.
In the meantime, the daily said, Taiwan’s investment would help create new jobs in South Korea.
The daily further said that although diplomatic relations between Taipei and Seoul were severed in 1992 when the South Korean government switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing, bilateral trade and civilian ties remain strong.
Total trade between Taiwan and Korea amounted to US$32.9 billion last year, the paper said.
Once Taipei and Seoul ink an investment protection accord, Taiwanese investors will be able to receive national treatment in South Korea and vice versa, the paper said.
The paper also said the Korean government kept the first round of talks with Taiwan secret for fear of offending China.
Taiwanese officials said, however, that it is customary for trade talks with foreign countries to be kept behind the scenes until a concrete result or consensus is reached.
Meanwhile, Vice Minister Liang said Taiwan’s exports to South Koreahave increased steadily, with the amount surging from US$7.3 billion in2009 to US$10.6 billion in 2010 and further to US$12.378 billion in 2011.
As of the end of June, Taiwan had invested about US$540 millionin South Korea in 160 projects, and South Korea’s total investment in Taiwanwas about US$980 million in 740 projects, Liang said.
(By Huang Chiao-wen and Sofia Wu)