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President vows determination on Taiwan trade liberalization
Central News Agency
2014-02-17 02:33 PM
Taipei, Feb. 17 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou stressed the importance of Taiwan's participation in two proposed Asia-Pacific trade blocs and voiced the government's determination to pursue trade liberalization in a speech to a group of Taiwan's overseas envoys Monday. Ma reiterated his administration's determination to join the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in an effort to avoid being economically marginalized in the region. The focus of global trade liberalization has now shifted from the World Trade Organization to regional economic integration or bilateral trade agreements, Ma said at the opening of a seminar in Taipei. The four-day seminar is being attended by Taiwanese envoys posted mainly in countries involved in the trade bloc negotiations. Taiwan's economic growth relies heavily on foreign trade, Ma said, noting that TPP negotiating countries account for around 34.4 percent of Taiwan's trade, while the RCEP countries represent 57 percent. Taiwan's competitiveness will be undermined if the country cannot join the two trade blocs, which he said are key to building a free trade zone in the Asia-Pacific region. "That's why we brought the representatives back, to jointly develop strategies to overcome the challenges," Ma said. Participating in the TPP and the RCEP is not a coupon for a free meal, he said, adding that instead, it involves give-and-take. Giving and taking should attain a balance during negotiations, he said. The president also cited Taiwan's free economic pilot zones as examples of the government's trade liberalization efforts. As part of the seminar, the representatives will have the opportunity to visit some of the zones over the coming days, Ma said. The zones cover industries such as agriculture, medical care, banking services and education, he added. "The idea of the zones is to further promote liberalization and internationalization," Ma said. "Our goal is to turn Taiwan into a free trade island." The president also touched on follow-up agreements to the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement between Taiwan and China, including the service trade agreement signed in June 2013, which is still pending ratification by the Legislative Yuan. Ma called on the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Mainland Affairs Council to make efforts to ensure smooth implementation of the agreement. This would illustrate to other countries Taiwan's efforts in trade liberalization, he said. The goal of the seminar -- organized by the ministries of foreign and economic affairs -- is to bring the overseas representatives together to find ways of gaining support abroad for Taiwan's bids and to obtain a better understanding of the country's trade liberalization efforts. Echoing Ma's remarks, Minister of Economic Affairs Chang Chia-juch said that "joining regional economic integration is an urgent issue for Taiwan." Taiwan's representatives to Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia, India, Peru, Chile, Canada and Mexico returned to attend the seminar. Other participants include Taiwan's deputy representative to the United States Leo Lee and newly appointed representative to the U.S. Shen Lyushun. The TPP currently is being negotiated by the U.S. and 11 Pacific Rim nations -- Japan, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, Canada, Mexico and Brunei. The RCEP is being negotiated by all 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, along with China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. Taiwan has repeatedly reiterated its desire to join the two trade blocs to avoid economic marginalization. (By Elaine Hou)
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