Taiwan and Singapore have concluded two-year talks about a bilateral trade pact and will release an official report once an assessment has been completed, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said in a statement.
The two sides are in the process of selecting appropriate legal texts for an official report, the Taipei Representative Office in Singapore and the Trade Office of the Republic of Singapore in Taipei said in a joint statement posted on the ministry’s Web site yesterday.
“Taiwan and Singapore have long had a close economic and trading relationship,” the ministry said. “The two countries expect to enhance this bilateral trade relationship after the ASTEP [Agreement between Singapore and the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu on Economic Partnership] is signed.”
“As representatives from Taiwan and Singapore are carrying out ‘legal scrubbing,’ both sides expect to finish follow-up tasks and ink the ASTEP as soon as possible,” the ministry said.
The legal processing is the final step before the signing of a formal trade agreement, the ministry said.
Taiwan and Singapore initiated the first round of ASTEP talks in May 2011, the joint statement said.
ASTEP is an extensive trade pact, covering bilateral trade of goods and services, foreign investment, solution mechanisms for bilateral trade disputes, e-commerce, government procurement and customs processes.
The ministry told a meeting of the legislature’s Economics Committee in March and again last month that Taiwan and Singapore would likely sign the agreement in the first half of the year.
According to data from the Bureau of Foreign Trade, Singapore was Taiwan’s fifth-largest trading partner last year, with a total of US$28.19 billion in trade between the two countries.
The figure reflects a 13.53 percent growth from US$24.83 billion the previous year, the bureau’s data showed.
Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research (中華經濟研究院) president Wu Chung-shu (吳中書) said the pact would help Taiwan further open its market and retain its competitiveness.
Considering that Taiwan’s exports to six ASEAN members have increased rapidly over the past few years and now account for nearly 20 percent of the nation’s total exports, the trade pact with Singapore would be a positive step, Wu said.
Additional reporting by CNA