Tue, Jul 25, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Trade officials seek support for US free trade deal


Taiwanese trade officials are directing their lobbying efforts at the US business community in an attempt to drum up support for the early signing of a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries, Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Steve Chen (陳瑞隆) said on Sunday.

Chen made the remarks while talking about the government's efforts to secure an FTA with the US the day after his arrival in New York on a transit stop, after taking part in a second round of FTA negotiations between Taiwan and El Salvador and Honduras in San Francisco.

As the US-Central America Free Trade Agreement came into effect this year, the government is working to sign FTAs with Central American states as part of its efforts to help Taiwanese manufacturers make inroads into the US market, Chen said.

Chen said that many countries, including Taiwan, are eager to enter FTAs with the US, but the US government is focusing its efforts on WTO talks and the formation of a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). As a result, whether the US will sign FTAs with other trade partners will depend on whether bilateral trade relations are close enough.

Because of the complex Taiwan-US-China political relations, Taiwan has failed to make much progress in its FTA talks with the US, Chen said. However, he claimed that the government's determination and efforts to secure a Taiwan-US FTA "will not be affected" by any unfavorable conditions.

Noting that the Ministry of Economic Affairs has made FTA talks with the US a top priority for this year, Chen said Taiwan is doing everything possible to win the US industrial and business sector's support for signing an FTA.

Touching on the second round of FTA talks with El Salvador and Honduras, Chen said the talks went smoothly and that this was Taiwan's first simultaneous FTA consultation with two nations.

Following a series of intensive trilateral negotiations in San Francisco, trade officials from Taiwan, El Salvador and Honduras have reached a consensus on all FTA provisions, Chen said, adding that after the completion of a third round of FTA talks in Honduras in September, the three countries will be able to ink FTAs by the year's end.

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