Taiwan should speed up the progress of talks with its major trade partners because China, Japan and South Korea have decided to launch talks on a proposed free-trade bloc, Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang (施顏祥) said yesterday.
“The three-way negotiations will definitely create pressure for us,” Shih said on the sidelines of a legislative hearing.
The leaders of China, Japan and South Korea agreed at a fifth trilateral summit on Sunday that the three powers would launch negotiations this year on a free-trade accord.
If three of Asia’s four biggest economies form a bloc that does not include Taiwan, “the influence will be tremendous,” Shih said.
Such economic cooperation would establish the world’s third-largest economic region, accounting for US$12.34 trillion, or 20 percent of the world’s total GDP, he added.
In light of this development, Taiwan would seek to start or re-open trade talks with major trading partners as soon as possible, Shih said, adding that the country would step up talks with China on a bilateral economic pact, as well as seeking further cooperation with Japan.
“There’s still time, but not much,” he said.
The Taiwan-China and -Taiwan-Japan trade talks should be conducted fast, but also carefully to prevent the nation from being marginalized by China-South -Korea-Japan cooperation, he added.
In addition, Taipei will make a greater effort to broaden its markets in Southeast Asia, while also re-opening trade talks with the US.
“There are many issues that we need to resolve,” Shih said.
Taiwan’s ban on imports of US beef containing residues of the -livestock feed additive ractopamine remains an obstacle despite a proposed easing of regulations and the main reason the two countries have not held talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement since 2007, the minister said.
Taiwan will also trying to expand cooperation with South Korea, instead of viewing it only as a competitor, he said.
“Although South Korea is a strong competitor, it is also a very important trade partner,” Shih said, adding that Taiwan and South Korea could foster “competitive cooperation” to create more business.
The government would also speed up reform of its industrial structure, helping “relatively disadvantaged industries,” such as manufacturing and old-economy sectors, to upgrade and transform, he said.
The slow progress of reforms in these industries could also drag down the pace of trade negotiations with other countries, Shih said.