Tue, Sep 21, 2004 - Page 10 News List

Nicaragua, Taiwan launch first round of FTA negotiations

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER

Government officials from Taiwan and Nicaragua yesterday launched their first round of free-trade agreement (FTA) negotiations in Taipei, a Board of Foreign Trade (BOFT) official said yesterday, aimed at making Nicaragua Taiwan's second free-trade partner after a first pact was signed with Panama last year.

The five-day negotiations, ending on Friday, are divided into five groups, including market entrance, regulation and procedure, investment and the service industry, labor and environment, and commerce, Wu Hsin-hua (吳新華), the BOFT's deputy director who also joined the trade talks, told the Taipei Times in a telephone interview.

Top negotiator

The nation's representatives for the talks are headed by Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Steve Chen (陳瑞隆), who was the top negotiator for the Taiwan-Panama FTA, while a 20-member Nicaraguan delegation is led by Alejandro Arguello, vice minister of publicity, industry and commerce.

By the end of the negotiations, the two parties will reveal the date, location and agenda for the next round of talks, as well as exchanging propositions of tariffs to be lowered, Wu said.

Located in Central America, bordering the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, Nicaragua counts agriculture as its main economic activity. Its leading exports include cotton, coffee, sugar, bananas and meat.

Trading partner

Nicaragua is Taiwan's 96th largest trading partner with a bilateral trade volume of US$24 million for the first seven months of the year, according to BOFT statistics.

Taiwan signed a FTA with Panama in August last year following 10-month negotiations. The trade agreement became effective in January this year, boosting bilateral trade among these two countries.

In the first eight months of the year, Taiwan-Panama trade rose 116 percent to US$170 million, compared with US$40 million last year. During the same period, Taiwan's exports to Panama rose 103 percent, while Panama's exports to Taiwan increased 424 percent, according to statistics of the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

Both Panama and Nicaragua are Taiwan's diplomatic allies.

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