Minister eyes Trans-Pacific Partnership trade bloc

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff Reporter

Fri, Oct 28, 2011 - Page 11

Progress made in enhancing Taiwan’s bilateral ties with Singapore and New Zealand in the form of economic cooperation agreements would help the country secure a seat in the emerging Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade bloc, Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang (楊進添) said yesterday.

Yang called an informal press conference to highlight the significance of the announcement made in Taiwan and New Zealand on Tuesday that the two nations had started a feasibility study on a bilateral economic cooperation agreement.

New Zealand was one of several countries that had expressed an interest in signing economic pacts with Taiwan when the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) was negotiated, Yang said.

Yang said that New Zealand wishes to become the first country to sign a free-trade agreement with Taiwan after the ECFA was signed, which suggests that “New Zealand places great emphasis on the issue.”

Taiwan and Singapore began formal talks under the title “Agreement between Singapore and the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu on Economic Partnership” earlier this year after they completed a four-month study on the feasibility of such a deal.

In addition to Singapore and New Zealand, which were both among the four countries that conceived and launched the TPP in 2006 along with Chile and Brunei, Taiwan is also working with India and Indonesia on feasibility studies for similar economic agreements, Yang said, adding that the Philippines would be the next country to follow suit.

With the economic cooperation mechanisms with Singapore and New Zealand under negotiation, Taiwan would not only deepen bilateral relationships with its major trading partners other than China, but also significantly boost its chances of participating in regional economic integration, such as the TPP, Yang said.

Meanwhile, Yang said he expected a preliminary timetable for the signing of an open-skies agreement with Japan to liberalize bilateral commercial aviation exchanges to be set sometime in the middle of next month.

Japan called off the previously scheduled signing of the aviation pact on Sept. 27 at the last minute without offering specific reasons, but the two countries proceeded with the signing of an investment agreement as scheduled.

Yang said that Japan did not cancel the signing because of pressure from Beijing. The investment agreement would not have been signed if China had been a factor, he said.