Sat, Dec 24, 2011 - Page 12 News List

Taiwan, Israel to set up free-trade pact working group

DIPLOMACY:A visit to Israel by Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Huang Jung-chiou was key to reaching an agreement to start a working group

By Jason Tan  /  Staff Reporter

Highlighting its determination to enhance trade ties with foreign partners, the Ministry of Economic Affairs yesterday announced that Taiwan and Israel had reached a consensus over the establishment of a working group to study the feasibility of signing a free-trade agreement (FTA) by 2013.

Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang (施顏祥) told a year-end press conference that both countries had expressed an interest in signing an FTA to boost bilateral trades in the past and the working group idea was conceived during a recent trip to Israel by Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Huang Jung-chiou (黃重球).

ISRAELI INTEREST

While the quantity of trade between the two is not significant, Israel is upbeat about the economic prospects of the Asia-Pacific region and an FTA with Taiwan would help it seize opportunities in the region, Shih said.

The signing of an Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement between Taiwan and China last year has since boosted Taiwan’s international trade profile.

The country started formal negotiations for a similar trade pact with Singapore early this year and entered into a joint feasibility study with New Zealand this month.

Separate feasibility studies for a possible FTA are now being carried out for India, the Philippines and Indonesia.

The ministry yesterday also set a goal of attracting NT$1.1 trillion (US$36.3 billion) in private sector investment next year — the same as this year’s target.

DOMESTIC GROWTH

Despite economic uncertainties, the ministry said it is confident that Taiwan’s GDP growth next year will reach 4.3 percent — a forecast made by the Council of Economic Planning and Development.

“Domestic consumption is lukewarm and not in a recession,” Shih said, adding that the ministry has outlined a series of measures to help boost exports amid economic slumps in the US and Europe.

That would help keep GDP growth above 4 percent and fuel private investment, he added.

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