Taiwan plays a critical role in the economy of the Asia-Pacific region and should therefore be included in regional cooperation and trade agreements, local and foreign experts said at a symposium yesterday.
“We now live in a totally connected and globally interdependent economic world,” said Kazuo Matsunaga, a former vice minister of the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, at the symposium about trilateral economic dialogue between Taiwan, the US and Japan.
“I cannot imagine the [proposed] Free-Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific [FTAAP] without Taiwan as a member, taking into account the current development of industrial cooperation among Taiwan, Japan and the US,” he added.
Taking Apple’s iPhone 5 as an example of collaboration among the three countries, Matsunaga urged the nations to foster stronger trilateral economic ties through economic partnership pacts or free-trade agreements.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chan Kai-chen (詹凱臣) said Taiwan has long played a major role in Asia’s industrial value chain, with its businesses investing heavily throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
However, Taiwan should do more to promote international economic rules, revise domestic laws, develop links with the global community and boost its global competitiveness to fully integrate itself in the regional economy, he said.
“Only through positive interaction can we attain the national economic development and regional stability we are seeking,” he added.
He also urged Taiwan to build a sound financial system and a risk monitoring mechanism, as well as to strengthen financial controls, but did not elaborate.
Organized by the Taipei-based Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research and the Washington-based Heritage Foundation, the day-long event in Taipei drew more than 20 academics, experts and officials from the three countries.
In the afternoon session, Claude Barfield, a former consultant to the US Trade Representative, said the nation should accelerate its pace of economic liberalization and sign more bilateral free-trade agreements with other countries.
Describing the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) between Taiwan and China as key, Barfield said Taipei should also seek to ink similar agreements with its other major trading partners to further protect itself from economic shocks.
In addition to the trade pact with China, Taiwan is currently negotiating free-trade deals with Singapore and New Zealand, with the aim of participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership within eight years.
National Chengchi University economist Chuang Yih-chyi (莊奕琦) said that Taiwan’s regional role could be that of an excellent resources coordinator, a provider of technology for latecomers and a risk buffer for counties entering the Chinese market.
“Taiwan serves as a pivotal player in the Asia-Pacific region,” Chuang said, adding that the nation’s experience in internationalization could be beneficial to the formation of regional economic integration.