Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said yesterday he is sanguine about the prospect of an early ratification of the free-trade agreement (FTA) the nation signed with Singapore on Thursday, saying that the government has earned support for the deal from lawmakers across party lines.
Wang praised the government for briefing the legislature on the contents covered under the deal, officially named the Agreement between Singapore and the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu on Economic Partnership (ASTEP), in the course of its negotiations with Singapore.
“The executive branch has expressed a high degree of respect for the legislature, which represents the people. The treaty helps boost the nation’s international profile. The legislature will lend its support to the government’s outreach to the world on the diplomatic and economic fronts,” Wang said.
Wang was addressing the reception held by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to celebrate the signing of the ASTEP on Thursday, the second FTA-like accord Taiwan has signed with a non-diplomatic ally, following the trade pact signed with New Zealand in August.
Since Taiwan has been a member of the WTO since 2002, Taiwan is within its rights to pursue bilateral FTAs with other countries, but with China fiercely opposing Taiwan’s efforts to seek economic integration with its trading partners and join regional trade blocs, Taiwan has faced the threat of becoming marginalized in the world economy as FTAs sprout up everywhere else.
Apart from the trade agreements with New Zealand and Singapore, Taiwan is a party to only five other FTAs with five of its diplomatic allies in Central America.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday attributed the signing of the deals with Singapore and New Zealand, the Taiwan-Japan investment pact and the launch of talks with the US over a bilateral investment agreement to the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) signed with China in 2010.
“I was not kidding around when I said that the ECFA would serve as a stepping stone [on the way to the global market]. There is a knack to that,” Ma said.
In his address, Ma urged Wang and the legislature to ratify the cross-strait service trade agreement, a subsequent deal under the ECFA that has generated controversy and heated debate since it was signed in June, to demonstrate to the international community that the executive branch and the legislative branch can cooperate on issues related to Taiwan’s economic liberalization.
In a related development, China, in response to the signing of the ASTEP, urged Singapore to abide by the “one China” principle, and to handle economic relations with Taiwan prudently and appropriately.
“Our stance on Taiwan’s external exchanges is clear and consistent. We do not have objections to foreign countries’ non-governmental trade and cultural exchanges, but do oppose any official ties,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Hong Lei (洪磊) said in response to an inquiry at a press conference in Beijing on Thursday.
On Taiwan’s participation in international events, China and Taiwan can seek a reasonable solutions through consultations under the precondition that this participation does not result in “one China, one Taiwan” or “two Chinas,” he said.