Recent comments by the Philippines’ trade and industry secretary cast doubt on the feasibility of Taiwan being able to sign free-trade agreements (FTA) with other economies in the region after it signs an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China.
A major pillar of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) rationale for signing the controversial trade pact has been that the ECFA would pave the way for such agreements.
“Our ‘one China’ policy stands. An FTA with Taiwan is still too early to say and … our commercial matters with Taiwan are being handled adequately through the JEC [Philippines-Taiwan Joint Economic Conference],” Philippine Trade and Industry Secretary Jesli A. Lapus was quoted by Manila Bulletin as saying on June 22.
Lapus said the JEC was working well and that the next meeting between Taiwanese and Philippine representatives — the 17th — would be held in Taiwan. The JEC was initially scheduled to be held in the first quarter, but was rescheduled to the fourth quarter to accommodate the entry of a new administration in the Philippines.
“Let the new administration call the shots” on the possibility of expanding the JEC to a full-fledged FTA between Taiwan and the Philippines, he said.
Lapus’ comments contrasted with earlier remarks, in which he voiced the possibility of exploring an FTA with Taiwan as relations between Taiwan and China improved.
“This might be the time to start talking. I see the benefits of this bilateral [FTA] because of [the] thousands of investors from Taiwan. This would even improve with an FTA,” Lapus had said in an earlier interview, also quoted by the Manila Bulletin.
Asked for comment on Lapus’ remarks, Bureau of Foreign Trade Director-General Huang Chih-peng (黃志鵬) told the Taipei Times on Friday that despite other regional economies’ stance of supporting a “one China” policy, an ECFA would nonetheless increase their willingness to sign FTAs with Taiwan.
“The political issues have to be resolved before other economies are willing to sign an FTA with us,” he said by telephone.
“The signing of an ECFA will be a ‘win-win’ for cross-strait relations in terms of economic ties, and through this, other countries have told us they would pay close attention to how the trade pact develops and explore the possibility of signing FTAs with Taiwan,” he said.
As a WTO member, Taiwan is free to sign FTAs with other economies as stipulated in the WTO clause, Huang said.
Taiwan has reportedly held several talks with Philippine authorities on the possibility of signing an FTA because the Subic-Clark-Kaoshiung Economic Corridor, established four years ago under former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) administration, was no longer sufficient to realize the full benefits of an FTA, the paper said.
“This economic corridor involves only a small area, while an FTA would cover both countries in their entirety, so this will expand relations of the two countries,” Taiwanese Representative Donald Lee (李傳通) said to Manila.
“Taiwan and the Philippines have agreed to discuss how the proposed FTA could be signed,” Lee said, adding that an FTA would cover both investments and trade.
He said he hoped that the discussions would be continued under the new Philippine government.
Lee said that once an ECFA is signed, more Taiwanese investors are expected to relocate to China, which could lead to the displacement of some of the estimated 80,000 Filipino workers in Taiwan.
Aside from the displaced workers, the Philippines could also lose potential investors because it would be easier for those investors to enter a country that has an existing agreement with Taiwan, Lee said to the Philippine Star earlier this month.
Last month, Subic Bay Development Management Corp president Jeff Lin (林繼武) said that there were no indications that Taiwanese firms in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone were preparing to relocate to China once the trade agreement has been signed.
Lin was responding to a report by Philippines National Economic and Development Authority director-general Augusto Santos.
The report claimed that some of the 135 Taiwanese companies in the zone would move to China after the trade pact is signed, leaving thousands of Filipinos out of work.
Lin said that some of the Taiwanese firms already established in the zone were mulling over expansion plans.
He said the zone had become more attractive to Taiwanese investors because of the positive effects of the FTA between China and ASEAN, which came into force at the beginning of this year.
The incoming Philippine president Benigno Aquino III will be inaugurated on June 30.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JASON TAN
LAND ALERT UNCERTAIN: The CWB was waiting to observe how In-Fa shifts as it moves north to determine when to issue a land alert, a forecaster at the bureau said Residents of northern Taiwan should brace for heavy rain today and tomorrow as Typhoon In-Fa approaches the northeast, the Central Weather Bureau (CWB) said yesterday. A land alert for the typhoon would be issued depending on the angle at which it moves north today, the bureau said. The bureau on Wednesday issued a sea alert for the typhoon, which applies to ships operating off the nation’s northern, northeastern and southeastern coasts. As of 8:30pm yesterday, In-Fa’s center was 470km southeast of Taipei, moving northwest at 6kph. It was carrying maximum sustained winds of 180kph, and had a radius of 200km. The typhoon was moving
‘BREAKTHROUGH’: All countries should be free to pursue closer ties with Taiwan, a leading democracy, a major economy, and a force for good in the world, the AIT said Taiwan is to establish a “Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania,” the first office in Europe to be called Taiwanese, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced yesterday. “It is an important diplomatic breakthrough,” President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) wrote on Facebook, thanking diplomatic personnel for the significant achievement. To expand the nation’s relations with central and eastern Europe, especially with Baltic nations, the government decided to establish the office in Vilnius, Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) told an online news conference. The plan signals progress in Taiwan-Europe relations, as it has been 18 years since the nation last opened an office on the
TARGET RAISED: The CECC said vaccination coverage has reached 24.35%, while Premier Su Tseng-chang said the government hopes for 30% by the end of July The government has signed a contract to buy an additional 36 million doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, 1 million of which are to be delivered in the fourth quarter, the Executive Yuan announced yesterday, as it updated its vaccination target to 30 percent coverage by the end of the month. The two-year deal with the US company covers “prime series” vaccines and future booster shots to protect against SARS-CoV-2 variants, Executive Yuan spokesman Lo Ping-cheng (羅秉成) quoted Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) as saying during an Executive Yuan meeting in Taipei. In the two weeks since vaccine registration opened, more than 9.8
STAY VIGILANT: Although a level 2 alert would raise the limit on indoor gatherings to 50, people should still wear masks and practice social distancing, the center said A nationwide COVID-19 alert is to be lowered from level 3 to 2 on Tuesday, but strict border controls would remain, the government said yesterday. The level 3 alert in place since May 19 is to end on Monday, with a level 2 alert in place from Tuesday until Aug. 9, the Executive Yuan said. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), told a news conference in Taipei that over the next two weeks, people should still wear masks at all times outdoors, except while eating or drinking, and practice social distancing. The maximum