Tue, Mar 19, 2002 - Page 17 News List

Taiwan and Singapore enter dialogue

DPA , SINGAPORE

Singapore and Taiwan have started talks on a free trade agreement, with Taipei hoping for significant progress by the end of the year, a Singapore newspaper said yesterday.

"Singapore has expressed significant interest in moving forward with the agreement," a Taiwan-based Chinese-language newspaper quoted Wayne Wu, director of Taiwan's Board of Foreign Trade (吳文雅), as saying.

He described the talks held so far as preliminary.

"We still need to conduct a feasibility study to understand what aspects Taiwan needs from the agreement," Wu said according to the newspaper.

The city-state and Japan signed the first free trade pact in Asia in January, and another was clinched with New Zealand last year.

Singapore is also aiming for agreements with the US, Australia, the European Union, Mexico, South Korea and Canada.

Such a pact with Taiwan, which joined the WTO last year, would lower import taxes and ease investment regulations between the two countries, the newspaper said.

Wu said he could not elaborate on the details. "It's hard to give concrete examples before the in-depth feasibility study is complete," he said.

Board of Foreign Trade figures showed Taiwan exported US$4.05 billion worth of products to Singapore, accounting for 3.3 percent of its export market. It imported US$3.37 billion worth of Singapore goods, or 3.1 percent of its total imports.

Singapore's leaders have repeatedly assured its neighbours that the free trade pacts will speed up the pace of liberalization in the region.

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