Taiwanese and Singaporean authorities are likely to conclude talks on a free-trade agreement within months, after both sides reached consensuses on the main components of the pact, government officials said yesterday.
Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Bill Cho (卓士昭) told the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee that the talks began in May 2011, and are expected to conclude in the near future.
Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) also expressed hopes that Taiwan and Singapore could sign an agreement in the first half of the year, providing the two sides reach consensus on other areas of the agreement.
Taiwan is seeking to enter agricultural markets in ASEAN nations through the pact, which would be named the Agreement between Singapore and the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu on Economic Partnership (ASTEP). The government is also focusing on the opening up of Singapore’s financial sector, which has multiple restrictions on foreign financial service providers, officials said.
The nation is also in negotiations with New Zealand, the Philippines, Indonesia and India over signing economic cooperation agreements, Cho said.
According to statistics from the Bureau of Foreign Trade, Singapore is Taiwan’s fifth-largest trade partner, with bilateral trade totaling US$22.58 billion during the January-to-October period last year, up 11.5 percent from the same period in the previous year.
Over the same period, New Zealand was Taiwan’s 40th-largest trade partner, with two-way trade growing 1.41 percent to US$1.01 billion, the statistics showed.
As for the resumption of long-stalled talks under the Taiwan-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Simon Ko (柯森耀) said that Representative to the US King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) has visited many US government officials and had forecast that a resolution was likely in the short term.