Taiwan and Singapore will begin negotiations on a trade pact soon, Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang (施顏祥) told reporters yesterday.
“Both sides are currently arranging a possible timeframe for the negotiations,” Shih said, refusing to reveal whether there was a timetable for the first round of talks.
Taiwan and Singapore had been conducting internal studies on the feasibility of such a deal before announcing the possibility of a trade pact early last month, he said, adding that the next step is to move into negotiations.
On Aug. 5, the two countries announced that they had agreed to explore the feasibility of signing a free-trade style agreement later this year under the framework of the WTO, a move many observers said was made possible after Taiwan signed the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement with China in late June, which took effect on Sunday.
Shih yesterday also said he was confident that the nation’s unemployment rate would soon fall below 5 percent this year on the back of reviving investment activity.
“We are confident that the goal will be achieved. Judging from the current momentum, the investment activities in the second half of the year are still thriving. This should help relieve unemployment,” he said.
Earlier this year, Premier Wu Den-yi (吳敦義) promised to step down if the administration failed to lower the jobless rate to less than 5 percent by the end of the year. The government’s latest jobless data showed the rate was still 5.2 percent in July, up from 5.16 percent in June, the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics reported on Aug. 23.
Of the six emerging industries promoted by the government to boost domestic investment, green energy is the only sector that is linked to the Ministry of Economic Affairs. The other five emerging industries are biotechnology, medical care, culture and creativity, tourism and high-end agriculture.
Shih said there had been an investment of NT$54 billion (US$1.7 billion) in the first eight months of the year — mainly focused on solar energy and LED businesses. The ministry has a target of NT$60 billion in investment in green energy for the full year.
Coupled with strong factory output and export orders in the first half of the year, Shih predicted solid economic growth for the second-half of the year.