Sat, Nov 15, 2008 - Page 3 News List

Free trade, WHO membership top of APEC agenda: Lien

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Establishing a Free Trade Area of Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), pushing for Taiwan’s membership in the WHO and improving economic ties with other members would be the main objectives at this year’s APEC meeting, former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Lien Chan (連戰) said yesterday.

Lien, who was appointed by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) as the nation’s envoy at this year’s APEC summit meeting in Lima, Peru, made the remarks during a press conference in Taipei.

Lien is scheduled to leave for Lima on Wednesday.

He said that other than the challenges commonly faced by all economies — the global financial crisis, unstable raw material prices and natural disasters — Taiwan’s international trade relations are “threatened by trade protectionism, such as exclusive regional economic cooperation and Free Trade Agreements [FTA],” and that “APEC is a very good platform for us to try to resolve such challenges.”

Therefore, Lien said, one of the main objectives would be establishing an FTAAP.

“Many people have asked me if we will try to sign FTAs with the US or Singapore,” Lien said. “I’d say that, while it’s important to sign FTAs with individual countries, we would gain more if we could be part of an Asia-Pacific FTA. So that’s what we’ll focus on this time.”

Taiwan’s membership in the WHO, Lien said, would be another focus.

“Natural disaster prevention and post-disaster reconstruction is one of the topics that will be discussed during the meeting. Therefore, from a strictly disease prevention point of view, issues concerning our WHO membership bid can certainly be raised,” Lien told the press conference.

Asked by reporters if he would seize the opportunity to meet Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and talk about cross-strait relations, Lien said that he would certainly like to meet Hu, but would limit any discussion to the economy.

“We have very little time and a lot of economic or trade issues to talk about,” Lien said. “It’s an especially scarce opportunity since we’ll have our top economic officials with us on the team and they [China] will have theirs on their team — so this is a perfect chance to talk about such issues.”

Lien then said that he would not worry about how he and Hu would address each other.

“We’ve met several times already. He always calls me ‘[KMT honorary] chairman Lien’ and I call him ‘[Chinese Communist Party] Secretary-General Hu’ — I actually wouldn’t mind if he calls me ‘leader’s representative,’ I’ll call him ‘leader’ in that case,” Lien said.

Lien went on to say that he would like to meet as many world leaders as possible, but that “everything is still being arranged by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”

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