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Scale of goods trade pact with China could be limited: official
Central News Agency
2014-03-31 10:13 PM
Taipei, March 31 (CNA) The scale of a merchandise trade agreement currently being negotiated between Taiwan and China could be limited because of reservations on both sides, a government official said Tuesday. The room for liberalizing trade in goods "may not be too big" because China approaches free trade agreements cautiously and Taiwan is conservative when opening its markets to imports of agricultural products and other sensitive items, said Lin Chu-chia, deputy chief of the Cabinet-level Mainland Affairs Council. Lin was speaking at the last of 14 forums held since February to discuss the pact with different domestic industries. The potential agreement is part of follow-up negotiations under the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) signed between Taiwan and China in 2010. Negotiations on a trade-in-services pact have already been completed, and the agreement was signed in June 2013, but it remains stalled in the Legislative Yuan and has sparked considerable controversy. Speaking with reporters during a break in the forum, Vice Economics Minister Cho Shih-chao said it would "not be feasible" to pass the merchandise trade pact before the trade-in-services agreement, without explaining why. Lin said, however, that his council would not rule out any possibility and would do its best to negotiate with China on pushing through the merchandise trade pact first. The trade-in-services accord has failed to get through a legislative review because of objections from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party and others who fear that it will hurt the country's small businesses and cost local workers jobs. Student-led protesters have occupied the main chamber of the Legislative Yuan since March 18 to demand that the government withdraw the pact that would open each country's services market to the other side's businesses. People in the business sector are worried that the delay could affect the conclusion of the merchandise trade pact, which is usually the main focus of most free trade agreements. Cho warned that Taiwan could lose all of its opportunities after China and South Korea ink a free trade agreement, saying South Korea, Taiwan's long-time trade rival, would reap the biggest benefit from a failure to pass the cross-strait service trade pact. Beijing and Seoul completed the first stage of negotiations on an FTA in September 2013, agreeing in principle to eliminate tariffs on 90 percent of all products traded. The second stage of talks began in November. No timetable has been given for when an agreement might be reached. By September 2013, South Korea had signed 48 free trade agreements (FTAs) with other countries that account for 36.11 percent of South Korea's total exports, according to statistics from the Industrial Development Bureau. In comparison, only 9.65 percent of Taiwan's exports are covered by free trade deals, according to the bureau. (By Milly Lin, Scarlett Chai and Christie Chen)
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