Fri, Aug 15, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Taiwan to sign its first-ever FTA

IMPORTANT MEETING The summit next week in Taipei between Taiwan and its allies in Central America and the Caribbean will witness the historic signing with Panama

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) will sign the Republic of China's (ROC) first Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Panama's President Mireya Moscoso during a summit meeting next week, Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien (簡又新) announced yesterday.

Heads of State and distinguished guests from Taiwan's eight allies in Central America and the Caribbean will attend a biennial summit meeting in Taipei next Thursday, Chien said.

The eight countries are Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and the Dominican Republic.

Next week's meeting will be the fourth of its kind and the second one to be held in Taipei.

"The scale of this year's summit meeting is unprecedented," Chien said.

Belize Prime Minister Said Musa, Costa Rica President Abel Pacheco, El Salvador President Francisco Flores, Guatemala President Alfonso Portillo, Honduras Vice President Alberto Diaz Lobo, Nicaragua President Enrique Bolanos, Panama President Mireya Moscoso and Presidential Secretary of the Dominican Republic Sergio Grullon will all attend the meeting, Chien said.

He said the number of distinguished guests displays Taiwan's close relationships with its allies.

The guests will start arriving in Taipei on Monday, he said.

Chien held a press conference with the allies' ambassadors to announce the meeting, which aims to boost cooperation, pursue sustainable development and promote economic growth.

Chien said Chen will sign the FTA with Panama in front of the distinguished guests from the nation's allies.

"It will be the most important step towards the ROC signing trade agreements with more countries," he said.

Taiwan initiated free-trade talks with Panama in 1999.

Chien said Taiwan is also very interested in negotiating free-trade agreements with its other allies in Central America and the Caribbean.

"These negotiations have continued," he said.

Countries in Central America are currently busy negotiating free-trade agreements with the US, which are due to be signed in 2005, Chien said.

Ambassador of Costa Rica Dr. Oscar Alvarez, who spoke on behalf of other ambassadors, said Central American countries are now concentrating on talks regarding their trade agreements with the US.

Calling the ROC-Panama FTA a concrete exhibition of Taiwan's close ties with its allies, Alvarez said other Central American countries have an open attitude about talks on free-trade agreements with Taiwan.

Chien said that ways to counter terrorism will also be an issue discussed in the meeting.

The allies will also discuss ways to promote Taiwan's participation in international organizations and how the ROC may play an active role in the regional integration of Central American countries.

"The ROC's participation in the regional integration of Central American countries will help promote the countries' economic development," Chien said.

As Taiwan extends its economic antennae toward Central America, he said, a win-win situation will be created for Taiwan and its allies in the region.

Meanwhile, a carnival featuring coffee, a famous product from Central America, will run concurrently with the summit in Taipei.

The foreign ministry and private sector are co-hosting the coffee carnival.

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