Fri, Oct 17, 2008 - Page 3 News List

Investments can aid nation’s ASEAN quest, Siew says

By Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan’s high investments and frequent cultural exchanges with Southeast Asian countries are two powerful bargaining chips in its quest to join ASEAN, Vice President Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) said yesterday, adding that recent improvements in cross-strait relations presented a prime chance for Taiwan to forge closers tie with the region.

Siew made the remarks at an ASEAN taskforce meeting convened by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday. The meeting included senior officials from different government agencies, including the National Security Council and the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

“The influence of Taiwanese businesspeople [in Southeast Asia] is limitless,” he said, adding that Taiwan is ASEAN’s third-largest trading partner and its business presence in these countries has helped bolster local economies and foreign deposits by providing employment opportunities.

The large number of foreign workers from ASEAN countries in Taiwan also gives Taiwan a leverage in negotiating for increased participation in the region, Siew said.

Taiwan, he said, must catch the wave of ASEAN’s rapid economic development, especially as it is set to become a common market next year.

Siew said his relations with ASEAN countries stem back 42 years ago when he served as representative to Malaysia.

During his stint, he said, he witnessed the formation of a coalition of nations whose original purpose was to serve as a peacekeeping group to ensure harmony in the region and reduce confrontation between Malaysia and Indonesia.

Four decades later, ASEAN has metamorphosed from a security group to a powerful economic entity and Taiwan must take advantage of this transformation by jumping at the chance to forge ties with the group, he said.

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