The Ministry of Economic Affairs yesterday rejected speculation that the anticipated signing of a free-trade pact between Taiwan and Singapore will be delayed unless the Legislative Yuan ratifies the cross-strait service trade agreement.
“The ASTEP is not inked yet because the two sides are still in the process of selecting appropriate legal texts for an official report,” David Yu (于永廷), a representative of the ministry’s Office of Trade Negotiations (OTN), said by telephone.
ASTEP stands for the Agreement between Singapore and the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu on Economic Partnership.
Yu’s remark came after Chinese-language Apple Daily yesterday reported that China is obstructing Singapore from signing the ASTEP with Taiwan unless the Legislative Yuan approves the cross-strait service trade agreement, which was signed by the Straits Exchange Foundation and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) on June 21.
The newspaper said President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was forcing Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) to step down amid worries that Taiwan’s economy may be marginalized if signing of the ASTEP is postponed.
Yu also dismissed the newspaper’s report that New Zealand gained China’s approval before signing a free-trade agreement with Taiwan in July. However, he did not explain why it is taking longer for Taiwan to ink the agreement with Singapore than it did with New Zealand.
According to the ministry, Taiwan began its free-trade agreement negotiations with New Zealand in May last year, while similar talks with Singapore started in December 2010.
In May this year, the ministry said Taiwan and Singapore had concluded talks on the ASTEP and begun “legal scrubbing” work for an official report. Citing confidentiality, Yu said he could not be sure when the two sides will finish the work.
Meanwhile, the ministry yesterday said it had completed its first round of video-conferencing with US trade negotiators after Taiwan and the US resumed talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) in March.
According to the ministry, Taiwanese and US trade negotiators aim to better understand the investment environment in both Taiwan and the US by holding routine meetings on a quarterly basis after the seventh talks under the TIFA.
“We believe the meeting had helped advance trade relations between Taiwan and the US,” the ministry said in a statement.
Other than promising to further enhance the investment environments for both Taiwanese and US investors in the two countries, Taiwanese and US trade negotiators also discussed in the video conference how to foster economic growth and development, create job opportunities, enhance competitiveness and make policies to boost innovation, according to the statement.