Fri, Mar 17, 2006 - Page 11 News List

South Korea FTAs increase pressure on Taiwan officials


South Korea, one of Taiwan's major trade competitors, has been making all-out efforts to sign free trade agreements (FTAs) with its trade partners, increasing pressure on Taiwan to break through its political hamshackling.

Following the launch of South Korea's FTA negotiations with the US, the lower house of the Swiss Parliament this week began to deliberate Korea's attempts to reach a deal with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

Swiss economics officials said South Korea completed FTA talks last December with the four members of the EFTA -- Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, and they expected that the lower house will approve the deal during its current session, with the upper house giving the nod in June.

They noted that Switzerland's FTA with South Korea will be the country's second most important trade agreement, next to its FTA with the EU.

Korea has signed FTAs with Singapore and Chile and has been talking or studying the feasibility of talking with all major trading nations over reaching FTAs, including the ASEAN, Japan, Canada, and the US.

On the other hand, Taiwan has been so hamshackled by its political isolation that it can only reach FTA deals with its diplomatic allies in Latin America or the South Pacific.

Even though the real benefits of FTAs and multilateral pacts have yet to be determined, current trends indicate that Taiwan might be put in a disadvantageous position in the face of South Korea's ambition to sign FTAs with major trading powerhouses.

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