Mon, Oct 20, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Taiwan will keep pushing FTA

TRY, TRY AGAIN When the nation's delegation meets with their counterparts on the sidelines of the APEC meeting, Lin Yi-fu will again attempt to discuss a free-trade pact

CNA , BANGKOK

Taiwan will try to explore the possibility of concluding a free trade agreement (FTA) with the US when the two countries talk about a trade and investment framework agreement (TIFA), Minister of Economic Affairs Lin Yi-fu (林義夫) said yesterday.

Lin, who is attending a ministerial conference of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, told reporters that Washington has agreed to resume the TIFA talks with Taiwan next year and that Taipei intends to include FTA discussions.

Taipei and Washington started a series of working group-level talks in October 2002 with a view of starting the TIFA negotiations in Washington in November that year.

But the formal talks never materialized because of Washington's complaint that Taiwan did not fully honor promises, which it made when it entered the WTO last year, concerning protection of intellectual property rights, opening markets to foreign rice and foreign telecommunication companies.

Taiwan has experienced difficulties in its attempts to forge free trade pacts with countries that do not recognize it, as these countries are vulnerable to diplomatic pressure from China, the minister said.

This situation, however, could change if the US takes the lead in entering into such a pact with Taiwan, Lin added.

Lin said his ministry is pleased to learn that Washington has given a green light to TIFA talks and is trying to convince Washington to conduct FTA talks at the same time.

Besides the US, Lin said Taiwan is trying to push for similar pacts with Japan, New Zealand and Singapore, Lin added.

In a bilateral talks on the fringes of the Bangkok conference, Lin said that Japanese Economic, Trade and Industry Minister Shoichi Nakagawa agreed to start the process by having private scholars study the feasibility of such a pact first, with an outcome hopefully by the end of this year.

Taiwan is hoping to set up a joint panel with Singapore to study the possibility of a FTA and is also approaching New Zealand about the issue, said Lin.

In related news, economic ministers attending the annual conference of the APEC forum in Bangkok issued a joint statement Saturday hailing Taiwan's successful organization of incubator forums and meetings to promote small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The economic ministers of the 21-member APEC trade grouping praised Taiwan's holding of two incubator forums in July and August and an SME seminar in August at the end of a two-day ministerial-level meeting.

They said Taiwan's organization of the meetings has benefited the region's SMEs a great deal and has helped give a boost to the sector's development in the Asia-Pacific region.

The ministers have the plan to work out in 2004 action guidelines to promote SMEs and micro-enterprises, including establishing a small business databank and a network for trade promotion and market exploration strategy.

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