Tue, Oct 14, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Ma says Taiwan wants to be part of regional trade blocs

AFP AND CNA , SINGAPORE

Taiwan is deeply concerned over China's warming ties with South-east Asia and is hoping to sign free-trade agreements (FTAs) with countries in the region to counter China's expansion, Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday.

"Taiwan fears very much that we will be marginalized as a result of our inability to participate in all the regional integration programs," Ma told reporters at the 12th East Asia Economic Summit, which opened in Singapore on Sunday.

"We do not want to be left in the cold when regional integration is taking place," he said.

Ma said the government was particularly aware that the FTA China is planning to implement with ASEAN by 2010 could have a dramatic impact on business.

"Although it will take place seven years from now, still you can see that goods ... in the ASEAN countries can enter the Chinese mainland without tariffs," he said.

"Taiwan will still have to pay tariffs which will put Taiwanese businesses at a competitive disadvantage," he said.

Ma said Taiwanese businesses may have to relocate to China if Taiwan could not secure similar free-trade pacts.

"We have to be very careful about this scenario ... We are trying to negotiate similar FTAs with countries in the region and elsewhere," he said.

Ma noted that Taiwan was already in negotiations with Singapore to sign an FTA.

China has embarked on a successful campaign to establish closer economic, cultural and political ties with Southeast Asia.

Ma is scheduled to deliver a speech at a summit panel session this morning.

In his address, Ma said, he'll tout Taipei's potential of becoming an Asia-Pacific regional operations hub and recap the nation's contributions to regional economic development over past decades.

Ma said he especially hopes that Taiwanese businesspeople operating in China can use Taipei as their operations hub.

A total of 800 participants from 32 countries are attending this year's summit, the theme of which is "Asia's future: Recapturing dynamism."

Singapore's Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew will deliver keynote speeches at the summit.

The East Asia Economic Summit annually brings together regional business leaders, senior government officials, media repre-sentatives and experts on trade and economy to discuss regional business trends and investment climate.

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