President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday renewed his call for the US to sign a free-trade agreement (FTA) with Taiwan following US Congress’ approval of an FTA with South Korea on Thursday. He also promoted the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) as a pact that would boost Taiwan’s global competitiveness.
In an interview with TVBS yesterday, Ma said Taiwan would seek to sign a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with the US as a first step toward the ultimate goal of signing an FTA.
“The US’ FTA with South Korea was signed three years ago and we started preparations back then. Signing the ECFA with China was our solution … China is our largest trade partner and after we signed the ECFA we enjoyed more advantages in the Chinese market than South Korea did,” he said.
On Thursday, the US Congress approved FTAs with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.
Asked about the impact of the FTA with South Korea on Taiwan’s economy, Ma said it would affect traditional business sectors in Taiwan, such as sock manufacturing.
The government will seek more solutions to help those industries weather the impact, he said.
Taiwan has been a major investor in China in recent years, providing more than US$100 billion in financing and technological know-how, estimates show.
However, the two sides will not sign an investment protection agreement to protect Taiwanese businesspeople and their investments in China in the next round of cross-strait talks, scheduled to take place from Wednesday through Friday in China.
Defending the government’s decision to push for closer economic ties with China, Ma said the signing of the ECFA was part of a wider plan to sign economic pacts with other countries, such as Japan and Singapore.
Taiwan and Japan signed an investment protection accord last month and an FTA with Singapore is under negotiation, he said, adding: “Ultimately, we still hope to sign an FTA with the US.”