Thu, Oct 19, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Sugar quotas scupper Salvadoran FTA

TRADE PACT Amid rising tensions between the two Central American neighbors, the president said he hoped recent talks with Honduras could inspire El Salvador

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AGENCIES

Failure to agree on sugar quotas yesterday prompted President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to delay the signing of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with El Salvador, saying that the two countries must first iron out their differences.

"It is a pity that we have to let our differences delay the signing of the FTA," Chen said, adding that he hoped the recent trade talks with Honduras could serve as an inspiration for El Salvador.

It was unclear whether Chen was aware that, almost three decades after El Salvador and Honduras fought a short but fierce "Soccer War" that killed thousands, tensions over their disputed border are again on the rise.

Although the two countries signed a border demarcation treaty in January 1998, delays in implementing of the treaty continue due to technical difficulties.

Honduras' Congress said in a resolution late on Tuesday that the country's sovereignty was being threatened by its Central American neighbor.

Chen made the proposal to Salvadoran President Elias Antonio Saca at the Presidential Office yesterday morning.

Before his meeting with Saca, Chen honored the Salvadoran president with a 21-gun salute and military ceremony in front of the Presidential Office building.

After three rounds of consultation, Chen had originally planned to seal the trade deal yesterday, but little progress was made on the issue of sugar quotas.

Chen said he realized that Saca, who arrived in Taipei on Tuesday for a four-day visit, had planned to cancel his trip to Taiwan because of the sugar deadlock. Chen expressed his appreciation for Saca's decision to come in any case.

Chen said that signing an FTA with El Salvador was a matter of great urgency, because it would help to pave the way for the establishment of a planned science and technology park there.

Because Taiwan and El Salvador have maintained a sound political relationship, Chen said, he hoped that the negotiation process could be completed as soon as possible so that the two countries could ink the accord.

Chen said that Taiwan and Honduras had postponed signing an FTA during Honduran President Manuel Zelaya Rosales' visit to Taipei last week, also because of differences on import-export quotas.

Zelaya then proposed that both sides lay aside disputes and proceeded to sign a joint communique to strengthen bilateral ties and cooperative programs, Chen said

Despite the setback to signing an FTA, Taiwan and El Salvador are set to sign an agreement on dispatching volunteers to the Central American country, as well as an accord on agricultural cooperation.

Saca also met Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) for lunch at the Presidential Office. Their meeting mainly focused on the establishment of the science and technology park.

Under the agreement, the Salvadoran government will provide Taiwanese firms with land near the international airport for 30 years.

Saca, who leads a delegation of government officials and business leaders, attended an investment meeting organized by the Chinese International Economic Cooperation Association yesterday afternoon to solicit local businesses interested in investing in El Salvador.

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