Singapore says FTA with Taiwan possible, without politics


Singapore says FTA with Taiwan possible, without politics

29 March 2008

SINGAPORE (AFP) - Singapore Saturday expressed optimism about enhanced economic cooperation with Taiwan as long as issues involving trade are not politicised.

A foreign ministry spokesman said free trade discussions in 2001 were stopped after the government of outgoing President Chen Shui-bian politicised the issue by trying to go beyond World Trade Organisation (WTO) framework.

Taiwan’s president-elect Ma Ying-jeou, due to be inaugurated on May 20, said after his recent landslide election victory he wanted to restart talks for a free trade agreement (FTA) with Singapore.

Singapore was also watching progress on a proposal by Ma for an FTA with China, the spokesman said.

"If Taiwan and the mainland (China) are able to make progress on an FTA and cross-strait relations improve, there will be many possibilities for enhanced economic cooperation between Singapore and Taiwan, provided that economic matters are not politicised," he said.

Singapore’s trade ministy said Wednesday Taiwan had not yet made official approaches to Singapore on the issue.

Under the WTO, FTAs with customs territories such as Taiwan are allowed.

The previous FTA talks with Singapore broke off after Chen’s government said it would not negotiate under any name except Taiwan or the island’s own official title, Republic of China.

Taiwan lost its UN seat to China in 1971 and is recognised diplomatically now by only 23 countries, mainly small and developing nations in Africa, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region.

China still claims sovereignty over the self-ruled island, which split from the mainland in 1949, and opposes moves that would indicate its independence.

Singapore suuports FTAs, having signed pacts with several countries including the US, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Jordan and India.

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