Former premier Sean Chen (陳冲)said yesterday that the nation is lagging behind other countries in inking international trade agreements and said the government should speed up talks with developed nations, including the US, to join regional economic blocs as soon as possible.
“Compared with countries like Iceland, Canada and South Korea, Taiwan appears not so anxious about signing trade agreements with either allies or non-allies, but there is no time to waste for Taiwanese,” Chen told a forum.
Chen said that South Korea has signed up to 12 trade agreements with the US, nations from the EU and ASEAN members over the past decade and that Taiwan should follow suit and approach large economies to initiate trade talks.
After being questioned about the Doha Development Round held in Bali, Indonesia, Chen said the trade negotiation meetings organized by the WTO have become less influential and fruitful because of mounting disagreements among member countries, including Taiwan.
He described the WTO’s 159-member deal this year — named the “Bali Package,” — as “low-hanging fruit” that were “gift wrapped to show to the world as evidence that WTO members had reached some consensus.”
“Though the Doha Round can still serve as a platform for WTO members to address trade conflict, it will only get harder for the more than 100 countries to reach a consensus on multilateral trade,” Chen said.
“While many WTO members have inked bilateral trade agreements, Taiwan should follow the international trend and join ‘the circles’ to facilitate the removal of trade barriers it faces from other countries,” he added.
The government has set a goal of joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) by 2020 at the earliest, but Chen said it should assess whether the nation is prepared to join to the “high-standard and high-quality” trade agreement led by the US.
EXPRESSION OF INTEREST
The Ministry of Economic Affairs said the nation has expressed its interest to the US over joining the TPP since last year.
“We spoke to nations on the TPP candidate list and expressed our interest in joining the negotiations during the APEC summit last year and this year,” an official at the ministry’s Bureau of Foreign Trade, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Taipei Times in an interview.
The official said that one of the biggest reasons the nation cannot join the TPP talks is because the US demands a complete removal of tariffs on US beef.
“While Taiwan’s economy is considered liberal enough in terms of trade regulation, there are still many challenges that lie ahead for the government to tackle before it can become a member of the TPP,” the person said.