The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) on Saturday denied that trade agreement talks with Singapore had stalled because of diplomatic glitches, as reported in the media.
The Chinese-language United Evening News last week reported that the friendly relations between Taiwan and Singapore had hit an unprecedented snag because of the conduct of some Taiwanese diplomatic personnel stationed in the city-state.
One of the rumors quoted by the paper was that a Taiwanese diplomat had sung the Republic of China national anthem at a public event.
Citing unidentified sources, the report said the diplomatic problems had also affected bilateral talks on the Agreement between Singapore and the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu on Economic Partnership (ASTEP).
The two countries announced in August last year that they would start ASTEP talks.
The paper said Taipei had sought to send presidential adviser and former minister of foreign affairs Ding Mou-shih (丁懋時) to Singapore to resolve the matter, but that the city-state had said he was welcome as a tourist, but not if he came to discuss bilateral relations.
In response, senior ministry officials said they were “surprised” and “baffled” by the report, adding that they had not heard of any glitches in the ASTEP talks.
One of the officials familiar with the ongoing trade talks said the two countries held a round of talks last month on the merchandise trade to be covered under the ASTEP.
“The talks have been proceeding smoothly without any snags as reported in the media,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) also rebutted the report, saying it was “inconsistent with the facts.”
Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang (楊進添) acknowledged recent communication glitches between the two sides, but added all was going well now.
MOFA said in a statement on its Web site that its personnel stationed in Singapore had worked hard and performed well in carrying out the representative office’s day-to-day affairs and in maintaining regular engagements with Singaporean officials.
ASTEP negotiations have also been proceeding smoothly and the two sides are scheduled to hold a new round of talks on the agreement early next year, it said.
Touting the ASTEP as a high-quality trade accord covering many aspects of bilateral trade, investment, financial market access, tariff reductions, MOFA said it was only natural that it would take time to conclude the pact.