The Ministry of Economic Affairs is asking the country’s businesses to wait patiently for Taiwan to sign economic cooperation pacts with Southeast Asian countries because Singapore and China are the trade negotiation priorities at present.
In a meeting with Taiwanese businesses operating in the Philippines on Saturday, Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang (施顏祥) said trade talks generally take time and that the current priority is to negotiate a free-trade-like deal with Singapore.
Citing Taiwan’s Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China as an example, Shih said the early harvest program covered only 539 products, but took one year and 100 people to work out before the pact was signed in June last year.
There are more than 8,000 items being discussed in follow-up negotiations with China, and substantive talks are also being held with Singapore, making it hard to give the necessary attention to members of ASEAN, Shih said.
“The government is devoting its greatest efforts to these two areas, and we have to wait until these talks have reached a certain stage before focusing on other countries,” Shih said.
The minister said, however, that the ASEAN was an area with which Taiwan needed to forge a free-trade or economic cooperation agreement.
The economic bloc, which comprises more than 500 million people, is now Taiwan’s second-largest export market. It buys 16 percent of all of the country’s exports, second only to China’s 41 percent, Shih said.
Shih arrived in Manila on Friday for the 17th Taiwan-Philippine economic cooperation meeting.
He attended a ministerial-level session of the meeting soon after his arrival.
On Thursday, Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs Francis Liang (梁國新) and his Philippine counterpart jointly hosted the vice ministerial-level session.
Shih said the two countries reached agreements on many issues, including that the Philippines would give Taiwanese businesses operating in its Subic and Clark special economic zones duty-free status and set up a single window to deal with visa issues.
In addition, the two countries signed letters of intent to pursue cooperation — one on the development of electric-powered -vehicles and the other for cross-border -exchanges of electronic certificates of origin.
Shih flew home after concluding the two-day meeting on Saturday.
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