Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (李顯龍) said more Asian nations will be inclined to forge trade pacts with Taiwan if it secures such a deal with his city-state first, local media said yesterday.
Lee, in an interview with the Chinese-language China Times, said the two sides hope to sort out details for the planned deal within “the next few months.”
Taiwan and Singapore announced in July that they would hold talks later this year on a trade agreement, the first such negotiations since Taipei sealed a major trade deal with China.
“Our selling point is that if [Taiwan] has cooperation with Singapore, other countries will ponder hard: ‘If Singapore is doing this, are we going to lag behind if we are not following?’” he said.
Lee said Singapore, a leading member of ASEAN, was ahead of other nations in the bloc in signing trade deals with major economies such as the US and Japan.
However, the pact issue was still “sensitive” for Taiwan despite its warming ties with China, he said.
Taiwan “has to ensure that cross-strait ties are not affected when it walks out [onto the international stage]. I believe Taiwan will carefully consider this factor,” Lee said, adding that Beijing is keeping an eye on the matter.
Taiwan has free-trade agreements with Panama, Guatemala and Nicaragua and has been pushing to forge tie-ups with other major trading partners. Such talks were bogged down, largely due to pressure from Beijing.
Singapore is Taiwan’s sixth-largest trading partner.