Wed, Dec 01, 2004 - Page 3 News List

MOFA slams China-ASEAN pact

TRADE The nation's exclusion from the integration within ASEAN is harmful and unfair to economic and trade development in East Asia, the ministry said

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

China intends to marginalize Taiwan, and that is why it signed a trade pact with ASEAN states at the regional summit meeting in Laos on Monday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said yesterday.

"Taiwan is excluded from the current integration within ASEAN. This is harmful and unfair to economic and trade development in East Asia," ministry spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) said at a press conference.

"Taiwan can offer ASEAN members quality goods at good prices through the multilateral trade mechanism, so why exclude Taiwan from the regional body?" he asked.

The trade agreement between China and ASEAN is one of Beijing's economic approaches to marginalize Taiwan, Lu said.

Related government agencies will try to communicate with ASEAN through different channels and discuss how to respond to regional economic integration in the future, he said.

"Taiwan, with its trade and economic strength and highly educated people, can be a contributor to East Asia," Lu said.

As ASEAN leaders agreed to hold the East Asia Summit outside the formal ASEAN regions next year, Taiwan will try to join the summit even though it knows the possibility of participation is slim, he said.

"We face practical difficulties. On the political front, China will certainly prevent us from joining the summit. Yet we still need to look for opportunities to participate," Lu said.

Jich Wen-chich (介文汲), deputy director general of the ministry's Department of International Organization, said a profound study on contents of the China-ASEAN trade pact is needed to determine whether it might exclude economies that are not partners of the agreement.

"If the trade pact will exclude non-partners, the existing multilateral trade bodies would not allow it to do so. The World Trade Organization (WTO) may take actions to alleviate [the impact incurred by the pact]," Jich said.

The WTO imposed many restrictions on regional free trade agreements and preferential treatment, which would limit the influence of the China-ASEAN trade accord, Jich said.

Most countries have low tariffs for imported electronics, which represents a vital portion of Taiwan's export market. Therefore, the trade accord between China and ASEAN, which aims to lower or abolish tariffs, is unlikely to affect Taiwan too much, he said.

The China-ASEAN trade pact can be seen as a sign of integration in East Asia, Jich said.

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