Tue, Dec 21, 2010 - Page 12 News List

Siew says time is ‘ripe’ for a trade treaty with Japan

Staff writer, with CNA

Vice President Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) yesterday called for a -Japan-Taiwan free-trade agreement (FTA) and closer cooperation between the two countries’ small and medium-sized enterprises, saying the moves would serve both sides’ interests.

“I think the time is ripe for Japan and Taiwan to negotiate an FTA and I hope Japan will seriously consider the issue,” Siew said in his opening remarks at this year’s Taiwan-Japan Forum, citing the the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) which was signed with China in June and the recent interest in an FTA with Singapore.

Private sector cooperation also has enormous potential, Siew said, because Japanese businesses have long been known for their advanced technology and Taiwanese enterprises excel in manufacturing and exploring emerging markets.

Siew said that Japan was the country’s second-largest trade partner and its largest source of imports last year, as two-way trade reached US$50.7 billion and the nation’s imports from Japan hit US$36.2 billion.

Yoshio Okawara, a consultant at the Institute for International Policy Studies, agreed that a -Japan-Taiwan coalition would be the best way for both countries to tackle East Asia’s fast-c-hanging economic climate.

However, Okawara also warned that the emergence of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) — a multilateral FTA that aims to integrate the economies of the Asia--Pacific region — could create a new economic dynamic.

Japanese House of Councilors member Naoki Kazama, of Japan’s governing Democratic Party, said Japan welcomed reduced tensions between Taiwan and China, but at the same time it had concerns about a Taiwan-China coalition.

A Taiwan-China coalition would mean that the East China Sea and the South China Sea could literally become China’s “inland waters,” Kazama said.

The scenario would make it impossible for Japan to stop China’s navy from projecting its power in the Pacific Ocean because Taiwan is an integral part of the “First Island Chain” defense perimeter, which is formed by the Aleutians, the Kuriles, Japan, the Ryukyus, Taiwan, the Philippines and Borneo.

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