Fri, Nov 28, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Taiwan to pursue economic ties

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan will pursue closer economic partnership arrangements (CEPAs) with non-allies if China continues intervening in the nation's efforts to sign free trade agreements (FTAs) with these countries, an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.

Many countries have geared up to sign FTAs since the World Trade Organization's (WTO) disastrous Cancun ministerial conference, said King Y. Yu (游金榮), deputy director general of the ministry's department of economic and trade affairs.

Despite the failure of the Cancun conference, Yu believed Taiwan's participation in the WTO has contributed a lot to the country's international standing.

Citing China's ongoing FTA negotiations with Southeast Asian countries, Yu said Taiwan will be signing FTAs with four Central American countries soon.

Taiwan already signed an FTA with one country -- Panama.

As for the progress of Taiwan's FTA talks with Singapore and Japan being hampered by China, Yu said Taiwan may choose to sign CEPAs or Closer Partnership Arrangements (CPAs) rather than FTAs with these countries.

"The contents of CEPAs and CPAs are mostly the same," Yu said.

Although Taiwan's FTA talks with Singapore stalled because of China's opposition to Taiwan's title in the agreement, Yu said non-government organizations in both countries have resumed negotiations on trade issues.

The Singapore Business Federation and Taiwan's China External Trade Development Council have been discussing details of the issue, Yu said.

Non-government organizations in Taiwan and Japan have also conducted talks on the trade pact, although Taiwan is not on the list of countries with which Japan most wants to pursue FTAs.

Meanwhile, the Mainland Affairs Council's advisory committee suggested yesterday that Taiwan hold a series of seminars to discuss whether to sign a CEPA with China.

Although the council has ruled out the possibility of signing a CEPA with China, calling the pact a product devised under the "one country, two systems" formula, the advisory committee said Taiwan should reach a consensus about how to handle the pact with China.

China signed CEPAs with Hong Kong and Macau this year and earlier this month expressed the hope to sign a similar pact with Taiwan.

Wu Shu-chen (吳淑貞), a senior specialist at the council's economic affairs department, said a member of the advisory committee warned the US may not want a CEPA between Taiwan and China.

The US does not want China, its growing trade rival, to absorb too much high technology from Taiwan. Such a situation might occur if Taiwan agreed to have a CEPA with China, Wu quoted the committee member as saying.

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