Mon, Mar 11, 2002 - Page 17 News List

Economics ministry may form trade pact with US

CNA , TAIPEI

The Ministry of Economic Affairs is giving priority to seeking free trade alliances and is actively exploring the possibility of signing agreements with Singapore and the US, a ministry source said yesterday.

Wu Wen-ya (吳文雅), director of the ministry's Board of Foreign Trade, said that it has been an inevitable trend that WTO members establish free trade zones with one another and that he will be happy if Taiwan and mainland China can form one.

However, he said that some politicians make the establishment of a free trade zone between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait difficult.

The foreign trade board is presently conducting a review of the feasibility of establishing free trade agreements with the US and Singapore, he said.

The US International Trade Commission announced in February that it will propose a report to the US Senate Finance Committee on Oct. 17 on the evaluation of the US signing a free trade agreement with Taiwan.

With Taiwan's entry into the WTO this year, Taiwan has sought to focus the nation's foreign trade work on the signing of bilateral free trade agreements with the US, Japan, Singapore and New Zealand, local media reported recently.

China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations agreed in November that they would promote a regional free trade zone and that Taiwan could be marginalized if it is left out of the free trade agreement.

Taiwan relies heavily on foreign trade and it is imperative that Taiwan sign free trade agreements with other nations, the officials said. The Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Mainland Affairs Council and the Council of Agriculture are now assessing the potential impact of such agreements, media reported.

Officials are worried that the signing of bilateral agreements with the US and New Zealand will probably send a second shock wave through the agricultural sector on the heels of WTO entry.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs said that Taiwan's electronics and information products mostly go to the US and that if free trade agreements are signed, then most exports will benefit from the removal of tariffs.

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