Sun, Jul 24, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Trade inclusion

By Chen Sheng-ho

It was important when Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore signed a free trade agreement (FTA). The official name of the FTA is called the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement.

The agreement is comprehensive because it covers many areas, such as trade in goods and services, rules of origin, trade remedies, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical barriers to trade, government procurement, customs procedures, intellectual property, temporary entry of persons, competition, institutional provisions and dispute settlement.

In addition, the agreement also calls for cooperation in education, industry, culture, science and technology, investment, financial services, labor and the environment. In sum, the comprehensiveness of the agreement is an indication of its ability to promote greater economic ties among members.

According to Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry, the strategic economic partnership is the first FTA with members from three different continents. The four countries hope that the establishment of their trading bloc will strengthen cooperation between Asia and the Americas.

It is in line with this spirit of Asia-Pacific cooperation that the agreement states that and APEC economy or country can join the bloc with the permission of the present signatories.

In recent years, there has been a call for APEC members to create a free trade area. Canadian members of the APEC Business Advisory Council have proposed the idea of an FTA of the Asia-Pacific. Many APEC members have not supported this idea because the negotiation process would be complex and difficult. Even though the trade bloc has yet to materialize, it is certainly not dead.

The newly-signed strategic economic partnership creates a catalyst for further economic cooperation in the Asia-Pacific. Since the agreement encourages APEC members to join, the current signatories should show their sincerity in pursuing this goal through real action.

This would mean that Taiwan should be welcomed as a member of the strategic economic partnership if it decides to apply for membership, as Taiwan is an active member of APEC and the WTO.

With the participation of this country, economic cooperation in the region would certainly reach a new level. It would also show to the world that current members of the strategic economic partnership takes into account economic, and not political considerations.

Chen Sheng-ho

Taiwan Institute of Economic Research

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