Taiwan hopes to enter into negotiations with the governments of Japan and other countries on the signing of free-trade agreements, the head of a Taiwanese trade delegation said yesterday.
Hsu Hsui-teh (許水德), president of the Association of East Asian Relations, made the remarks when he addressed the opening of the two-day 28th annual trade and economic conference in Tokyo.
Hsu is heading the 29-member Taiwanese delegation, which also comprises Huang Chih-peng (黃志 鵬), director-general of the Board of Foreign Trade under the Ministry of Economic Affairs, and Republic of China Representative to Japan Lo Fuchen (羅福全).
Reijiro Hattori, president of the Interchange Association, heads the Japanese delegation, which also includes officials from Ja-panese foreign trade, economic, agriculture, fishery and forestry agencies.
The two sides are expected to exchange views on major issues concerning bilateral trade and to sign a memorandum of understanding on joint research into SARS.
Taiwan suffered outbreaks of the atypical pneumonia between March and June, while Japan was largely unaffected.
Hattori said that with high-ranking officials from both sides attending the meeting, there will be a full exchange of views and some tangible results.
He said that with the changing of the global economic structure, Taiwan and Japan have undergone dramatic changes, especially since Taiwan's entry into the WTO in January last year.
He said Taiwan's WTO membership would further speed up industry upgrading.
He expressed hope that both sides will understand the direction of changes of their respective economic structures and strengthen bilateral trade and economic cooperation.
He also said that this year's conference will not only address issues concerning the economy, trade and investment, but will also discuss wide-ranging issues related to medical treatment, intellectual property rights protection and tourism stimulation plans.
Hsu said that Taiwan recorded the first negative economic growth of 2.1 percent in 2001 because of the global economic downturn and the unstable domestic political environment.
But he added that with the global economic recovery last year, Taiwan's economy also rebounded to 3.54 percent growth.
This year, Taiwan should have an economic growth of more than 3 percent despite the onslaught of SARS, although the figure will still be lower than the average growth of 5.3 percent for Asian countries predicted by the Asia Development Bank, Hsu said.
He expressed appreciation for the medical supplies provided by Japan to Taiwan during the SARS crisis.
Hsu noted that Taiwan's exports to Japan have been consistently declining over the past two years, while imports from Japan have increased.
He also pointed out that the triangular trade relations between Taiwan, Japan and China have brought about rapid trade growth between Japan and China.